LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Thoroughbreds racing under lights with the famous twin spires aglow. Big, raucous crowds. Mint juleps as nightcaps.
Kentucky’s Churchill Downs racetrack has dabbled with night racing since 2009 and the returns have been like hitting the exacta: with surging attendance and betting by nighttime crowds. So the historic track is kicking up its nocturnal schedule.
The last two spring meets at Churchill opened at night, including last Saturday. Its Stephen Foster Handicap, one of the top races for older horses, will be run at night for the first time in June. Several other stakes races are set for primetime.
But its signature event, the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, is decidedly a daytime spectacle. The most famous two minutes in sports will be raced more than two hours before sunset, in a time slot shared by the start of Super Bowls and Rose Bowls.