Downs After Dark 2011, Churchill Downs’ nighttime racing event, will kick off the track’s 39-day spring meet on Saturday, April 30. Starting at 6 p.m., the track will feature 11 live races on the “Opening Night” event as part of Downs After Dark 2011. The last race will run at 11 p.m. Entertainment is scheduled to take place through midnight.
April 30 will mark the first of four days of the spring meet during which races will take place at night under the lights. Other nighttime racing events for the 2011 spring meet will be held on June 17, June 24 and July 1. An additional Downs After Dark event will be held during the fall meet on November 19.
Churchill Downs Racetrack President Kevin Flanery says the nighttime racing program has yielded “exciting” results over the past two years. The track debuted its Downs After Dark programs in 2009, when a three-night market test lured an average attendance of 30,000 fans.
During the finale, the track set a record attendance of 33,481, which was the largest crowd for a Churchill Downs racing program other than a Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks or Breeders’ Cup. With that initial success, Churchill Downs invested $4 million in the installation of permanent, state-of-the-art lighting on the 147-acre facility.
Many of the elements that made the previous eight night-racing programs popular with core customers, casual patrons and entertainment seekers will be incorporated into this year’s program, Flanery adds. With food, fashion and music accenting the party atmosphere, the event transforms Churchill Downs into Louisville’s hottest night spot.