Monday, July 6, 2009

‘Downs After Dark’ draws 89,115 for three nights of racing


Churchill Downs’s experiment with night racing appears to be a hit after 89,115 came to the first three cards of night racing in the track’s history.

Thursday night’s program drew 33,481, the largest of the three night cards. It is also believed to be the largest non-Kentucky Derby (G1), Kentucky Oaks (G1), or Breeders’ Cup crowd in the track’s modern history. The previous record is believed to be 28,396 on November 17, 1987, for a $1-million pick six carry-over.

“They got something that works,” trainer Steve Penrod said. “No question lights will be permanent. As long as they make each night an event, it will work. Last night was a perfect evening with the weather and it was very impressive.”

The first “Downs After Dark” card on June 19 drew 28,011 despite hot weather and long lines at concession stands. With more workers at the concession areas, the second night card on June 26 drew 27,623.

“I loved it,” trainer Buff Bradley said. “I didn’t think they’d have as many as they had the first two nights, but as long as it remains a novelty on Friday night I think it will do well. … I can see people saying ‘I’ll meet you at Churchill Downs’ and it will be the thing to do.”