Considering Churchill Downs' success as host of the Breeders' Cup World Championships, track and event officials are anticipating the possibility of a record crowd when the eight races with record purses of $20 million are held at the Louisville track Nov. 4.
In the five times Churchill has hosted the Breeders' Cup, the track has accounted for five of the six largest crowds in Breeders' Cup history. The Breeders' Cup record of 80,452 witnessed the championship day races at Churchill in 1998.
"Absent horrendous weather, which right now the forecasters are not predicting, we expect to see 85,000 to 90,000 people at the track," Greg Avioli, Breeders' Cup president and CEO said following the Oct. 25 announcement that 121 horses had been pre-entered in the Breeders' Cup races.
With all 50,000 reserved seats sold out, at least 30,453 general admission tickets would need to be sold to achieve a record crowd Nov. 4. As has been the case in the past, the Churchill Downs on-track attendance figure for Breeders' Cup day also includes attendance at the company-owned Trackside training facility in Louisville, which has a capacity of about 5,000 persons.
To encourage general admission ticket sales, Breeders' Cup has entered into a joint venture with the Kentucky Lottery Corporation in which purchasers of a special scratch off lottery ticket tied to the Breeders' Cup will receive $10 off the $25 price of admission. A similar discount is available for general admission tickets purchased at Louisville-area Kroger stores.
"The only thing that I can see that would keep us from having record attendance would be a long day of steady rain, but I don't expect that to happen," Avioli said.
The other attendance figures for Breeders' Cup at Churchill Downs are 76,043 in 2000; 71,671 in 1994; 71,237 in 1988; and 66,204 in 1991.
In hosting the Breeders' Cup for the first time since Churchill Downs underwent a $121 million renovation, the track's personnel are prepared for a large crowd, said president Steve Sexton.
"Welcome home. This is where the Breeders' Cup ought to be," Sexton said.