Updated on 06/27/2012 5:38PM

Churchill Downs adjusts schedule because of predicted heat

Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography
A Downs After Dark card is scheduled for Saturday evening.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Churchill Downs officials announced Wednesday evening that they will attempt to salvage the final three days of the spring meet in the face of an oppressive heat wave by switching to a first post of 6:30 p.m. Eastern for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.Churchill canceled a nine-race Thursday card in girding for the heat.

Daytime temperatures through the weekend were forecast to surge past 100 degrees, making conditions unbearable for horses and humans for much of the day. The Friday program had been scheduled to start at 2:45; Saturday at 6; and Sunday at 12:45.

Churchill president Kevin Flanery said in a media release that the move to night racing "will ease the threat of weather-related issues" and that the track's lighting system gave officials a welcome measure of flexibility. Churchill began using lights as an experiment at the 2009 spring meet before installing a permanent system in time for the 2010 spring meet. Three nighttime Downs After Dark cards already have been run at this meet, on April 28, June 2, and June 16.

The lights have "allowed the flexibility to adapt to the extreme heat and develop a schedule that eases our most serious concerns about the safety of our equine and human athletes and meets the needs of our horsemen by preserving races scheduled for the meet's final three days," said Flanery. The move also "provides fans who wish to enjoy Churchill Downs racing - either on-track, online or at satellite wagering centers - the opportunity to do so."

Flanery said the Thursday races will not be made up, although Churchill's racing secretary, Ben Huffman, said earlier Wednesday that some of those lost races may be redrawn and carded for Sunday. The same number of races, 32, will be run during the final three-day period as was originally scheduled. The last race for Friday (11 races) will be run at 11:30; Saturday (11 races) at 11:40; and Sunday (10 races) at 10:30.

Feature races for the end of the meet are the Grade 3 Bashford Manor on Saturday and Grade 2 Firecracker Handicap on Sunday


Joe West More than 1 year ago
What difference will a 630 start have for first half of evening card since sunset is 910?
W.G. More than 1 year ago
It gets the start of the card out of the most intense sun of the day. That's why Churchill canceled today and moved back all three cards this weekend to 6:30. It's their best chance of getting all the cards in AND finishing them before midnight. Otherwise, we'd likely be looking at 8:00 PM starts and the cards running past 1:00 AM in order to get them in.
JoyJackson21 More than 1 year ago
It's going to be even hotter this weekend than it has been so far - the heat indices in Omaha today was 113 degrees and that kind of heat is heading east toward Kentucky and will be there by Friday in time for the weekend races. Even if they run the races at night, temperatures will still be oppressively hot until after sundown. I'm concerned for all - horses, jockeys, staff and fans. Stay safe, everyone - and keep hydrated!
W.G. More than 1 year ago
Which is why I brought up the question of whether even at night they will be able to go. They may have to push first post back to 8:00 PM and go past 1:00 AM in order to get the cards in safely, that's how bad this weekend is going to be.
Steve Schnell More than 1 year ago
Looks like W.G. is having fun talking to himself...
myjockwon More than 1 year ago
wow this guy has the answer to it all. Maybe they could even run Christmas eve and christmas day to make up two lost days LOL
Steve Schnell More than 1 year ago
I know, right? Just what we need double headers (basically a 20 race card) or 6 day race weeks when there is already a huge problem trying to fill races... lol smdh
W.G. More than 1 year ago
You forget that in the fall, Churchill has MANY more horses to work with because of all the two year olds who are ready to race then. It's far from an ideal situation, but I'm sure the horsemen and workers are going to want the days made up. Since there is simply not enough time to make up the days this meet if any additional cards are lost, the next best solution is to make them up in the fall, when more horses are available (not just from Churchill, but from other circuits that have ended their seasons at that point). Churchill learned their lesson on this last year when they jammed extra races into the final four days a year ago, which was ill-advised then. And a day-night doubleheader would probably be 17 races (eight in the afternoon, nine at night). Not ideal, but at least in the fall you have more horses to work with and can more easily get away with a small number of six-day race weeks as long as you keep weekday cards to eight races. And I can't remember Louisville EVER being as hot as is forecast for the next few days.
Ryan Jones More than 1 year ago
Steve, myjockwon, grow the heck up. If a guy wants to state his opinion - let him. Let me ask you a question.. where did you add something to this conversation? WG at least understands that the racing dates need to be made up or agreed to not be made up (by the horsemen). It's generally the way the law is written. Before you poke fun at someone else or mock them publicly, at least bring something to the table... ignorance is way worse than stupidity.
Ryan Jones More than 1 year ago
One more thing, using LOL and SMDH makes me wonder if you're even adults at all. Type the words if you want us to read them. Silly acronyms.
W.G. More than 1 year ago
The question is, will Churchill be able to even attempt to race this weekend? The revised forecast is now calling for 105 degrees as the high on Friday, 106 on Saturday and 102 on Sunday. Even going at night may be too dangerous here. I would not be surprised if the entire weekend is cancelled and in the fall, Churchill goes with either six-day weeks (running every day except Monday) or goes with day-night doubleheaders (12:45 PM day, 6:30 PM night first post) on Fridays or Saturdays to make up the canceled cards.
W.G. More than 1 year ago
I would definitely try to bring back the better races from Thursday and Friday over the weekend if possible, but at the same time, I would not be trying to jam extra races into those two cards as so far they seem to be avoiding. Any lost days from this meet I would make up in the fall. The Thursday card that was lost I would make up be adding a Tuesday card on Election Day (November 6) and adding additional Tuesday programs in the fall as needed to make up the other canceled programs if there are any. Churchill has many more horses available in the fall and if necessary could run six-day weeks then (even if it means eight-race cards during the week) to make up for the lost programs.