No night racing at Churchill Downs on Halloween.

No night racing at Churchill Downs on Halloween.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Churchill Spooked by Halloween Night Plans

Churchill wants to scrap plans to race in the evening on Halloween.

If you had plans to spend Halloween night at Churchill Downs, you will have to take your party elsewhere.

Churchill will race Oct. 31, but it will ask the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission to switch first post time from 4:30 p.m. EDT to the customary 12:40 p.m. Halloween was supposed to be the first of two “Downs After Dark” programs slated for the fall meet that begins Oct. 31.

The opening-day program will feature a “Stars of Tomorrow” program of all 2-year-old racing.

Track officials said the planned scrapping of night racing was prompted by concerns about attempting the concept of racing under the lights on a Sunday evening, and the possible impact of the event from community and family Halloween celebrations.

“We were very enthusiastic when we first looked at the idea of a celebration of Halloween under the lights between the Twin Spires, and it remains an idea that we will study closely down the road,” Churchill president Kevin Flanery said in a statement. “We’re just not sure that this year’s Sunday spot on the calendar provides the best opportunity for an enjoyable ‘Downs After Dark’ experience. So we have decided, pending the needed KHRC approval, to run in the afternoon this year and look at a Halloween night racing program later on.”

Oct. 31 is the official start of Breeders’ Cup week at Churchill. The World Championships will be held the following Friday and Saturday, Nov. 5-6.

“While night racing on Halloween and all that would include is very exciting at first glance, concerns have arisen as our Churchill Downs team has planned for that event,” Flanery said. “The Sunday night schedule could cause issues for the many fans who need to return to their jobs early on Monday. We’ve also become increasingly concerned that the Sunday program would force fans to choose between more traditional Halloween celebrations and our nighttime event.”

If the change is approved, the only evening program will be offered Nov. 19, a Friday, with first post time at 4:30.