(Edited press release)
Churchill Downs April 15 announced that multiple-award winner and country music superstar LeAnn Rimes will help the racetrack launch a new tradition when she performs the national anthem live as part of the ceremonies leading up to the 135th running of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) May 2.
Rimes’ performance will be the first live vocal performance of the “Star Spangled Banner” by a national recording artist on Derby Day and will be televised by NBC Sports as part of its pre-race coverage, which begins at 4 p.m. EDT.
“Churchill Downs is honored to have such an accomplished, respected, and gifted singer as LeAnn Rimes perform the national anthem before the tens of thousands of Derby fans watching in person from the racetrack on the first Saturday in May, as well as the millions of television viewers who will share in the experience from Derby parties around the country while watching NBC’s coverage May 2,” said Kevin Flanery, senior vice president of Churchill Downs Inc.
“We know how special Derby Day and its many traditions are to fans around the world, and we are careful to only add new elements to the Derby collage when we are confident they will make for a more entertaining and memorable event. We believe LeAnn Rimes is the perfect performer to help us begin a 21st century Derby tradition – one that has been a long-standing and well-accepted part of other major sporting events.”
Rimes’ rendition of the national anthem will take place shortly after 5 p.m. and will be one of two performances of the “Star Spangled Banner” at Churchill Downs May 2. The Fort Knox Army Band, which has performed an instrumental version of the national anthem near the start of the race card for many years, will continue to do so with this year’s instrumental performance slated for shortly after noon.
Rimes, 26, has sold more than 38 million albums, won two Grammy Awards, three Academy of Country Music Awards, 12 Billboard Music Awards, and was recently named “Humanitarian of the Year” at this year’s Academy of Country Music Awards. The Jackson, Miss., native, who recorded her first album at age seven, is the youngest Grammy Award-winner in history and was the first country recording artist to win the Grammy’s “Best New Artist” category.
Tickets to Kentucky Derby 135 and its companion event, Kentucky Oaks 135, can be purchased online at www.kentuckyderby.com/2009/tickets.