'College Rivalry Night' brings casual atmosphere to Churchill D - WDRB 41 Louisville News

'College Rivalry Night' brings casual atmosphere to Churchill Downs

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LOUISVILLE, Ky (WDRB) -- For the first time since the 1890s, Churchill Downs is hosting a stand alone meet in September.

But Saturday night, the competition wasn't just on the track.

Every person who entered the admission gates was asked what college team they root for.

The votes were tallied and the winning schools received $10,000 worth of scholarship money.

The school spirit at 'College Rivalry Night' was undeniable.

"They saw my Bellarmine hat and I don't have a chance but I'm a Bellarmine guy and I'm also a U of L guy," said Tony Barton.

"Kicking off a week of trash talk between the bitter in state rivals U of L and UK," said Darren Rogers, Senior Director of Communication & Media Services at Churchill Downs.

Fans were allowed to vote for any team so even some out of state schools were represented.

"Syracuse, been a long time fan. Love them. Great coach. Great college," said Pat Dibble.

The scholarship money incentive ramped up the competition a bit, making the atmosphere under the twin spires feel a lot like a tailgate party.

"The football toss, the corn hole games, music going on, we've got some cheerleaders," Rogers told WDRB.

Many fans say they enjoyed the more casual feel.

"They try to play to all, not just horse people who love horse racing but all kinds of genre so I'm cool with that," said Barton.

Fans also say they like having the option of attending an early meet in September.

"I think there needs to be more options for people. People will come," Barton told WDRB.

"It's nice. It gives us something to do to go out and do something because we are home bodies," said Dibble.

"We're looking forward to having racing for the month of September where our horsemen can compete for over $400,000 worth of prize money a day," said Rogers.

While some were focused solely on school spirit, others still kept their eyes on the track.

U of L brought in the most votes with UK in second and WKU in third.

Those schools will receive scholarship money from Churchill Downs.

Rogers says it's undecided whether or not Churchill Downs will host another college rivalry night but that fans seemed to enjoy it.

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