03/26/2013 10:55AM

Churchill Downs keeping Trackside facility closed on Kentucky Derby, Oaks days


Churchill Downs officials announced Tuesday that simulcasting at its nearby Trackside annex will not be available this year for the Kentucky Oaks and Derby, quite possibly spelling the end for a facility that has been used for that purpose off-and-on since the early 1990s.

Several thousand local racing fans typically attended Trackside as an alternative to the huge crowds at Churchill on Derby weekend, but track spokesman John Asher said maintenance costs on the aging facility had become prohibitive. Trackside had been the regular base for all off-season simulcasting until the operation was moved to the main Churchill plant about 10 years ago, with Trackside reopening for a period of a few weeks, ending with Derby weekend.

“Being in there just a few days a year, the bill to restore it to something usable was just getting too steep to justify,” said Asher. Whether that means Trackside will never be used again, he added: “We never say never, but that facility is like an old home that’s falling apart. It doesn’t make much sense to go to that expense and effort if we can’t serve our customers properly.”

Unaffected by the announcement is the adjacent six-furlong training track and stable area with a capacity of several hundred horses.

Asher noted that the new Plaza area where the Paddock Pavilion was razed last year at Churchill has added “substantially more” ontrack space for general admission patrons on Oaks and Derby days. He added the elimination of Trackside also could move horseplayers to use deposit-wagering accounts on Derby weekend.

In a related note, off-season simulcasting at Churchill is temporarily returning to its former space on the second floor of the main facility, effective this week. Since Jan. 16, simulcasting had been housed in the new first-floor space known as “The Parlay,” which now is being readied in anticipation of the Derby for its primary use as the media center.