04/29/2010 11:00PM

Churchill has plan if weather turns nasty

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Local officials and Churchill Downs said Friday afternoon that contingency plans are in place to deal with the potential for heavy rains and severe weather during Saturday's Kentucky Derby program. Officials are expecting a crowd of 150,000 at the track.

Officials said they are most concerned about the crowd in the infield, and that they have formulated a plan to evacuate the infield in case the tunnels become blocked. Churchill Downs is prepared to use the newly installed track lights this year should conditions force post time for the Derby to be delayed, said Doug Hamilton, the former chief of the Louisville Police Department and currently the executive director of the Louisville Emergency Management.

The ultimate decision to delay post time for the Derby would be made by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission and chief steward John Veitch following consultation with Churchill Downs officials. Churchill has also consulted with NBC, which will televise the Derby, regarding contingency plans should post time for the race be delayed due to the weather. Post time for the Derby has been pushed back from 6:24 to 6:28 p.m., according to track officials.

Although the original forecast called for very strong storms to move through the Louisville area in the hours just prior to the Derby, National Weather Service representative Joe Ammerman said the forecast had changed for the better.

"Right now the National Weather Service is forecasting showers that could last from three to four hours beginning at 10 a.m., with the potential for one inch of rain and then just scattered showers and light rain from 2 p.m up until post time for the Derby," said Ammerman. "The most severe weather is now predicted to be over the area after midnight."

-additional reporting by Jay Privman