1. The inaugural September Meet will feature 12 days of racing over a four-week stretch from Friday, Sept. 6 through Sunday, Sept. 29. Racing will be conducted three days a week every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Friday racing will start at 1:45 p.m. EDT while weekend action begins at 12:45 p.m. EDT. Two special Downs After Dark events are scheduled for 6 p.m. EDT on Saturday, Sept. 7 (College Rivalry Night) and Saturday, Sept. 28 (Homecoming Dance: A Night to Remember).
2. Fans are encouraged to express their passion and dress in support of their favorite school on Saturday, Sept. 7 as Churchill Downs is transformed into Louisville’s ultimate nighttime hot spot for “Downs After Dark: College Rivalry Night” Presented by Finlandia Vodka. Each fan that passes through admission gates for the special night racing program will be asked which collegiate team they support. At night’s end, the school with the most votes will be awarded $5,000 in scholarships. Additionally, the runner-up will receive $3,000 in grants, while the third-place finisher will get $2,000. Churchill Downs’ celebration under the lights is sure to have the atmosphere of a tailgate party in its spacious 30,000-square-foot Plaza, complete with live music, unique food and drink offerings, corn hole games, a football toss, cheerleaders, marching bands and more. Admission gates will open at 4 p.m. (all times Eastern) and the first of 11 live races will begin at 6 p.m. ET. The final live race will be 11:10 p.m. and the on-track party will continue in the Plaza until 11:30 p.m. Cover charge (general admission) to all Downs After Dark events is $10. Holders of shareholders passes or horsemen licenses and children age 12 and under (when accompanied by an adult) will be admitted free of charge. No one under the age of 18 will be admitted to the track unless they are accompanied by a parent or responsible adult. Indoor dining packages in Millionaires Row are $59.90 per person and include a delectable buffet dinner, reserved seat and official program. Outdoor third-floor box seats are $20 and include general admission, a box seat in the third-floor clubhouse and an official program.
3. Saturday night’s stakes quartet kicks off eight-race stakes schedule worth nearly $1 million. Four of Saturday’s 11 races will be stakes events, including two important $150,000 fixtures for 2-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles. The Iroquois (GIII) will kick-off the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” series, while the Pocahontas (GII) launches the “Road to the Kentucky Oaks.” Also, both races are Breeders’ Cup “Win & You’re In” Challenge events. Additionally, top milers will compete in the $100,000-added Ack Ack Handicap (GIII), and fillies and mares will contest the $100,000-added Locust Grove over 1 1/16 miles.
4. Races written in the September Meet condition book offer horsemen the opportunity to compete for a daily average of $407,000 in prize money. That’s four times as much as what had been offered on the Kentucky circuit during September in recent years. As a result, the barn area is near capacity and anticipation among horsemen is high.
5. The most lucrative race of the meet is the $175,000-added Homecoming Classic. The inaugural running of the 1 1/8-mile test for 3-year-olds and up will be run in prime time under the lights on Saturday, Sept. 28 during the Downs After Dark “Homecoming Dance: A Night to Remember” program. Positioned five weeks in advance of the Breeders’ Cup Classic, it becomes a potential prep race for area horsemen who have lofty goals.
6. Churchill Downs will host the “City’s Best Happy Hour!” each Friday in the Plaza from 4-7 p.m. A perfect way to start the weekend: a beer and a bet with a buddy. There’ll be drink specials ($2 Budweiser/Bud Light and $3 Stella Artois), a variety of food trucks from the Louisville Food Truck Association and live music on the Plaza stage (music starts at 3 p.m.). Friday’s meet-opener features entertainment by The Predators. Also, Wines and Canvas will be on hand to give guests the opportunity to bring out their inner artist. The first race on Fridays is 1:45 p.m. with the 10th and final race schedule for 6:29 p.m.
7. There’ll be plenty of fun for the entire family every Sunday. Churchill Downs has teamed with Kroger to present Family Fun Days every Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. The popular series, launched during the 2012 Spring Meet, promises fun for the entire family. Kiddos 12 and younger are invited to the Plaza Balcony to enjoy games, crafts, visits from Churchill Charlie and special weekly events. Also, Kone Ice of Louisville will be on hand to serve premium tropical-shaved ice treats, and Cookies and Canvas will give children the opportunity to paint while enjoying a tasty treat. The first Sunday of the meet will feature an appearance by the Honey Hill Farms Mobile Petting Zoo in the Plaza. The first of 10 races on Sunday is 12:45 p.m. Admission gates open at 11:30 a.m. The “Kids Zone” is dedicated to providing fun for the youngsters at Churchill Downs, but all children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian at all times.
8. Churchill Downs will host a “BIG GAME Viewing Party” in the Plaza on Saturday, Sept. 14. The much-anticipated college football game between bitter in-state rivals, the University of Louisville and University of Kentucky, will coincide with live racing. Gates will open at 11:30 a.m. EDT and the first of 10 races is 12:45 p.m. EDT. Kickoff for the U of L road game in Lexington is noon, and the ESPN telecast will be shown on a giant 16’ x 20’ Plaza video screen with audio. Tailgate-like activities are planned as well.
9. Purchasing reserved seats or general admission tickets to Churchill Downs has never been easier. All reserved ticket packages can be purchased online at ChurchillDowns.com/Tickets, in person at the Gate 1 box office (open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday and noon to 9 p.m. for Downs After Dark night racing events on Sept. 7 and 28) or by calling (502) 636-4400. Daily general admission is $3 ($1 for senior citizens); reserved box seats are $10; a seat in the Matt Winn Dining Room is $15; and indoor dining options are $34.50 (note: pricing increases for Downs After Dark events). Children 12 and under are admitted free when accompanied by an adult. Free seating is available daily over a first-come, first-serve basis in sections 113-118. Parking is free in the Longfield Avenue lot (Gates 10 & 12) and $3 in all other lots. Valet parking is $5.
10. In addition to ChurchillDowns.com, customers can stay up-to-date with the latest Churchill Downs information on Facebook and Twitter. The track’s official Facebook page is Facebook.com/ChurchillDowns, and its Twitter handle is @ChurchillDowns. For information tailored for members of the working media, the Twitter handle for the Churchill Downs communications department is @DerbyMedia.