04/01/2009 12:00AM

Churchill to hold three night cards this spring


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Churchill Downs will conduct racing under the lights for the first time in the track's 134-year history when the track hosts three night programs late in the 2009 spring meet.

Pending approval Tuesday from the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, Churchill will start three cards at 6 p.m. and conclude at about 11 p.m. on Friday, June 19; Friday, June 26; and Thursday, July 2.

The track will use portable lighting stationed around the one-mile oval, according to Darren Rogers, senior director of communications. There will be no stakes races on any of the three cards.

"We usually need to sustain momentum after the Stephen Foster is run [in mid-June]," said Rogers. "We thought this would be a unique way to do it. It should be a lot of fun."

Rumors have persisted for years that Churchill would conduct night racing. Rogers said he had not yet been informed what company would supply the lighting and that the move to night racing was somewhat akin to the first night game at Wrigley Field in Chicago in 1988.

Rogers said Churchill officials had canvassed neighborhood associations in recent days and was granted their blessing to conduct the night programs. He added the track did not plan to issue a release on the news until after the commission gives its approval.

Churchill has conducted day racing only since 1875. The 2009 spring meet runs April 25 to July 5.