Before the horses sprint from the starting gates, the Kentucky Derby crowd will hand over millions of dollars in wagers. Gamblers lucky enough to pick the right colts will be getting a little less back.
Churchill Downs is taking a bigger cut of the money bettors place on its races. The decision comes after Kentucky lawmakers rejected the racing industry's latest effort to add slot machines to generate more cash to boost prize money for horse owners.
Churchill spokesman John Asher says without the bigger cut, the track would have had to reduce prize money for winners of spring races and some races would likely have been cut.
Kentucky touts itself as the world's horse capital. But some tracks are struggling to compete with tracks in states such as New York and Pennsylvania that use casino gambling to offer higher purses.
The home of the Kentucky Derby wants to make sure every fan attending the famous race actually sees the horses running. Churchill Downs said Monday it will install a video board bigger than three basketball courts to give fans a giant-size view of the thoroughbreds stampeding along the track.
The track is teaming with Panasonic for the $12 million project expected to be done early next year _ well ahead of the Run for Roses on the first Saturday in May.
"It's going to present coverage of the race unlike anything we've ever been able to do before," said Ryan Jordan, the track's general manager.
Track officials said the 15,224-square-foot, high-definition LED video board will be installed about midway along the backstretch and outside the dirt course.
The video board's position will maximize the viewing angle for fans in the 55,638 clubhouse and grandstand seats and the tens of thousands of fans packed in the track's 26-acre infield for the Derby and the Kentucky Oaks. The Oaks is a race for 3-year-old fillies run the day before the Derby.
The two days of racing are a revenue bonanza for the track's parent company, Louisville-based Churchill Downs Inc.
A federal judge in Texas has ruled against Churchill Down Incorporated in a challenge over online gambling laws.
The Louisville-based company was hoping the judge would throw out a Texas law that bans internet gambling offered by the racetrack’s website.
The Courier-Journal reports the Texas Racing Commission has recently started to enforce a law requiring that all gambling on horse racing be done in person at the racetrack. The law was later revised by Texas authorities to explicitly outlaw online wagering.
Churchill claimed the “in person” part of the law was a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s interstate commerce clause. But the Texas judge rejected that argument, saying that Churchill Downs and other racetracks can reach gamblers in the Lonestar State through simulcasting—something that is permitted under Texas law.
Churchill started Twinspires.com in 2007 in order to take bets online and over the phone.
Friday is the day for the fillies at Churchill Downs.
More than 100,000 fans are expected at the track for the 139th running of the Kentucky Oaks, the biggest race of the year for three year old fillies.
Like at Saturday's Kentucky Derby, there will be plenty of security in place. Police have increased their presence at the gates with more electronic wand searches. Purses larger than 12 inches are prohibited as are coolers and camera with detachable lenses.
The traffic plan around Churchill Downs remains the same as in previous years. Central Avenue is closed and the taxi lot has been moved from Gate 17 to the area between 3rd and 4th Streets on Central.
It's called the "Road to the Kentucky Derby", and starting next year it will be used to determine the field for the world's most famous horse race.
The Courier-Journal reports Churchill Downs will determine the 20-horse field for the Derby through a points system. Beginning this fall, two-year-old horses will earn points based on their placement in designated races.
The points system will essentially organize the horse racing season into a regular season and playoffs, which racing officials hope will build fan interest along the way.