11/17/2010 2:18PM

Churchill preparing for large turnout for Friday's night card

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Fugitive Angel, whose four straight wins include last month's Pin Oak Valley at Keeneland, is a prime contender in Saturday's Mrs. Revere.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Night racing in the fall at Churchill Downs already made an enormous impact on the sport when Blame edged out Zenyatta in that unforgettable running of the Breeders’ Cup Classic less than two weeks ago. There won’t be any such drama here Friday, but there is an historical aspect in store: It’s the first night program ever run here in the fall, and it’s designed to elicit the same kind of enthusiastic response that fans have been giving in the spring.

Indeed, night racing already has become firmly established as a see-and-be-seen tradition among the Louisville populace, and Churchill officials are gearing up for another ontrack swarm. Attendance has averaged a whopping 27,897 for the seven night programs held during the last two spring meets – parts of three 2009 cards were run under temporary lights, after which Churchill installed its permanent system in time for the four 2010 dates – and judging by the marketing efforts and local buzz involved with this next one, there should be another substantial turnout here Friday.

“We’ll be prepared for a crowd up to 25,000,” said Churchill spokesman Darren Rogers, “but since this is the first time we’re doing this in the fall, so we really have no feel for how many people may actually turn out.”

The main consideration is weather. Whereas swilling beer while working up a sweaty glaze as the sun disappears after 9:30 p.m. on a hot June night appeals to the masses, it’s something else to brave temperatures in the 40s when it’s already dark by 6. Rogers said Wednesday that inside seating for Friday “is almost sold out” while outdoor boxes remain plentiful.

“We’re all interested to see how it plays out in the fall with the cooler weather,” he said.

Although the Friday card is the only one of its kind during the 21-day fall meet, some later races on both Breeders’ Cup programs (Nov. 5-6), including the Classic, were held under the lights. In addition, Churchill is maintaining a first post of 12:40 p.m. for programs on closing weekend (Nov. 26-28), when as many as 12 races will be run per card, meaning the later races on those days will require the lights to be turned on. In prior years, first post was set earlier on closing weekend to ensure that all races were run in daylight.

Fugitive Angel, Aruna head Mrs. Revere

Fugitive Angel, a winner of her last four starts, and Aruna, winner of the Pebbles Stakes at Belmont Park last out, will start alongside each other as part of an outstanding field of 11 3-year-old fillies entered for the Grade 2, $175,000 Mrs. Revere Stakes here Saturday.

Aruna was assigned post 5 and Fugitive Angel got post 6 in the 20th Mrs. Revere, which goes at 1 1/16 miles on the turf. Other notables include the uncoupled Tom Proctor duo of Wild Mia (post 2) and Snow Top Mountain (post 7), and Gitchee Goomie (post 4), winner of an overnight stakes at Belmont last out for Rick Violette.

Lane’s End purse unaffected by cuts

With Turfway Park having such difficulty keeping its purses at a respectable level, it would seem the Grade 2 Lane’s End Stakes would become a target for a purse cut at some point. But track president Bob Elliston said this week that the $500,000 purse will remain intact for the 2011 Lane’s End, which is sponsored largely by the Kentucky breeding farm that carries its name. The Lane’s End is set for March 26.

Turfway revealed this week that overnight purses are being trimmed for the upcoming four months of racing this winter as a means to salvage its stakes program. The Florence, Ky., track will run Dec. 2 to April 3.