06/24/2009 12:00AM

Churchill to add staff for next night cards

Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography
Churchill's first nighttime card attracted more than 28,000 customers.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - All hands on deck.

Churchill Downs officials are promising that the exceedingly difficult conditions that greeted the massive crowd for its historic first night-racing program last Friday will not be repeated when the track doubles its number of beverage stations and triples its staffing at those stations for the two night-racing programs that remain at the spring meet.

The attendance count released by Churchill for Friday was 28,011, many of whom endured interminably long lines for concessions amid brutal heat. Officials admitted they were badly understaffed for the occasion, but that won't be the case when night cards are run this Friday and July 2.

"Many fans were clearly unhappy with the unacceptable level of service," Bill Carstanjen, chief operating officer for Churchill Downs Inc., said in a track release. "We share their frustration, apologize for the experience, and vow it will not happen again."

Regardless of the snafus involving parking, programs, and concessions, Churchill officials were elated with the interest generated by its initial foray into night racing. Indeed, the Friday program was the talk of the town and the racing industry.

"We're thrilled with the splash we made with our first try at night racing," said Churchill vice president John Asher.

For nearly two years, Churchill has had a company policy of not releasing business figures but makes the occasional exception, including for Friday. Ontrack handle exceeded $1.6 million, more than 2 1/2 times for the comparable Friday twilight program from 2008, while all-sources handle was $6.5 million, up 32 percent.

Churchill officials have said they will view night racing in the context of being novel when they decide whether it will become a staple for future meets.

For the 11-race card this Friday, the weather forecast calls for similarly hot conditions, with a daytime high temperature of 90. First post is 6 p.m. Eastern, with the last four races run under the temporary lighting system installed by Musco Lighting of Iowa.

Debutante starts stakes wrap

Churchill racing officials are expecting at least seven 2-year-old fillies for the Grade 3, $100,000 Debutante Stakes on Saturday, including three sharp winners of maiden races here: Decelerator, Brown Eyed Baby, and Wild Forest Cat. Other probables are Our Teleka Rose, Phone Marybe, Henry's Posse, and Send Rose Thecheck.

The six-furlong Debutante is the first of four graded stakes that end the spring meet, with the others being the Grade 3 Bashford Manor on July 3, the Grade 2 Firecracker Handicap on July 4, and the Grade 3 Locust Grove Handicap on closing day, July 5.

The 43 nominations to the Firecracker include Grade 1 winners Thorn Song and Mr. Sidney, both of whom are expected to run in the one-mile turf race.

Leparoux, Borel go down to wire

Heading into the final eight-day stretch of the meet, Julien Leparoux holds a four-win lead over Calvin Borel atop the jockey standings. Both have had sensational meets, most notably Borel, who became only the seventh jockey to win the Kentucky Oaks and Derby in the same year by riding Rachel Alexandra and Mine That Bird to victory in those races.

Into Thursday, Leparoux had 55 winners to Borel's 51. Three others are well back in their own race for third: Robby Albarado (36), Shaun Bridgmohan (34), and Miguel Mena (33).

Leparoux, whose next primary stop will be Saratoga, has won four of the last six meet titles at Churchill, dating to the 2006 spring meet.

Asmussen filly impresses

Largely overshadowed by the spectacle of night racing was a performance in the Friday twilight by Ocean Colors, a 3-year-old filly who ran off to a 2 1/2-length score in an entry-level allowance at five furlongs on the turf.

Perhaps the most notable thing about Ocean Colors is that she is out of the late Winning Colors, the 1988 Kentucky Derby winner. She is owned by Gainesway Thoroughbreds and trained by Steve Asmussen.

* Dubious Miss, a two-length winner of the $60,747 feature here Sunday, is now 5 for 5 with Borel riding him and 1 for 6 with any other jockey. A 5-year-old gelding, Dubious Miss earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 101 in the 1 1/16-mile classified allowance.

* Embers Glowing won the last race Sunday at a $103.20 mutuel, helping both the pick six and the super high five carry over into Thursday. The pick six jackpot stands at $24,058, and the super high five pool, which includes earlier races at Calder and Arlington, is at $10,686.

* Only five winning dime superfectas were sold on the sixth race Sunday, when Jolly Ol' Nick won at 10-1 over Chaffee John (24-1), Kutenai (51-1), and Lace Manzotti (6-1). From a pool of $55,090, each dime winner paid $8,857.73.

* The next winner at Churchill will make Greg Foley the 12th trainer with 300 career wins here. Foley has horses entered in the fifth and seventh races Thursday.