By Josh Cook
Even casual horse-racing fans knew after May 1's 136th Kentucky Derby that it was only a matter of time before Churchill Downs ran a big race under the lights.
That time will be Nov. 5-6 in the Breeders' Cup World Championships. Races will finish at approximately 7:30 p.m. on the first day, while the second day of horse racing's Super Bowl will conclude with the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic at around 6:45 p.m.
It is the first time that Churchill Downs will host the event under the two-day format, the first six times were under the old one-day format. And it will also be the first time in which the Downs' new lights will be used in a major event, and in thoroughbred racing's world championships.
"Churchill Downs, residents of Metro Louisville and the entire region are anticipating the return of the Breeders' Cup and our first opportunity to enjoy the Championships as a two-day event," Kevin Flanery, president of Churchill Downs, said in a press release. "Much Breeders' Cup history has been made beneath our track signature Twin Spires in its record six previous visits to Churchill Downs, and the running of the first Breeders' Cup races under our new permanent lights on Friday will be another first-of-its-kind experience. We look forward to welcoming the world for a seventh time to the Breeders' Cup Championships."
After using temporary lights for a few test-runs of night-racing last year, permanent ones were installed at the Downs over the winter at a cost of between $3 million and $4 million. That brought about the possibility that one day the Derby could be run under the lights - and that almost happened this year. With the threat of inclement weather there was even talk of delaying post time of the 136th Run for the Roses, but conditions were fine at race time.
Churchill Downs announced earlier this week that it will feature six "Downs After Dark" night-racing events in the Spring and Fall meets, beginning June 11 and concluding Nov. 19.
"With the large, passionate base of racing fans in Kentucky and its magnificent facility, Churchill Downs is always one of the most popular venues for our Championships," Breeders' Cup President and CEO Greg Avioli said in a press release. "We're very excited to be running one of our premier races under the lights on Friday and to be staging two days of the finest racing in the world in our home state."
Tickets for the Breeders' Cup go on sale June 5. For more information visit www.breederscup.com/tickets.