11/19/2014 5:30PM

Churchill calls off Thursday racing program


LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Churchill Downs has canceled its 10-race Thursday program, marking the second straight cancellation because of a frozen racetrack.

This is the first time for back-to-back cancellations at Churchill due to cold since Nov. 23-24, 1970, according to a media release issued early Wednesday evening by the track. Cancellation of a 10-race Wednesday card was announced early Tuesday.

Churchill president Kevin Flanery said in the release: “A suitable cushion is imperative and we haven’t been able to get there because Mother Nature isn’t cooperating. The ground temperature is significantly cooler than the air temp, and even with all of our team’s effort we can’t get the cushion to dry out evenly to provide a suitable racing surface for our athletes. The health and safety of our horses and jockeys remain paramount.”

About three inches of snow fell early Monday in the Louisville area, and despite the Churchill maintenance crew harrowing the track around-the-clock since Nov. 13 to prevent it from freezing, they ultimately were helpless against the brutal conditions that have enveloped much of the United States in recent days. Training was canceled Tuesday and Wednesday mornings and was highly likely to be canceled Thursday, too, following an overnight low in the 20s.

Now Churchill will have to deal with a possible third straight cancellation for Friday, when 10 races are scheduled. A high of just 38 is forecast for Friday following another overnight of freezing temperatures.

A slight warming trend was forecast as the week wore on, with a high of about 50 for Saturday, when the Grade 3 Cardinal Handicap is scheduled to be run on the turf course. A high of about 60 is forecast for Sunday.