In an attempt to dress up the post position selection program for the Kentucky Derby (gr. I), the event was taken downtown this year. Previously held at the Kentucky Derby Museum adjacent to the Twin Spires, the nationally televised program was moved to Fourth Street Live! in downtown Louisville, Ky.
For all intents and purposes, the program, televised by ESPN from 5-6 p.m. May 3, and event, which drew quite a crowd to the downtown development, was a big improvement.
Fourth Street Live! is a string of bars, restaurants, and retail shops covering a few blocks just south of the convention center in downtown Louisville. The block used for the draw was the former site of the Galleria, which is an atrium-like, glass-covered area that would have worked in any weather condition.
The move was a good one for the city of Louisville, as it takes an official Kentucky Derby event and places it in a public setting. It also worked for ESPN, as several of their "Game Day" events take place in an open forum where fans are encouraged to participate.
The fans in attendance--which was more than 1,000--were loud and boisterous early, when the program first started, but poor sound quality in the open-air setting and two lengthy commercial breaks early on brought the energy level down. Still, no one seemed to leave.
The biggest response during the draw was for Beverly Lewis, widow of Robert Lewis. The pair won the Derby with Silver Charm in 1997 and Charismatic in 1999. Beverly drew post 5 for Point Determined, who races for their estate.
There were ample large-screen televisions available around Fourth Street Live! to follow the action for those that did not have a clear view of the action. From the looks of the program, it had a better feel that those of previous years than when it was in the staid setting of the Museum.
One of the earlier concerns was with traffic and having an event away from Churchill Downs. All of the owners, connections, and trainers arrived early and were whisked into "Felt," an upscale billiard room next to the staging area, where food and beverage was readily available.
Has as been the case with the hour-long program, there was little drama in the actual selection process of picking the post positions. The real drama was earlier in the day when the order of selection was made by the old fashion "pill pull" at the racing office.
Following the draw, they returned to "Felt" where a buffet dinner was available and a press conference with the trainers was conducted in a back room.