LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- It is closing weekend for Churchill Downs' first September racing meet in more than 100 years.
The track says it would like to see more horsemen participate in the early fall racing.
It is the first of two fall meets. The regular fall racing meet at the Downs begins at the end of October.
It was blue skies over the famed Twin Spires at the track on Friday afternoon.
The 12 new racing dates at Churchill Downs, which consist of four weekends of Friday, Saturday and Sunday in September, are the result of Turfway Park in Northern Kentucky no longer racing in September. So the Downs took the dates.
While Churchill Downs doesn't release attendance figures for a meet, it says the number of people walking through the turnstiles so far has been about what was expected for the additional racing days.
Crowds have been relatively small compared to the usual spring and fall meets, according to some of the concession workers we spoke with. However, at the first of two Downs after Dark racing cards several weeks ago, 14,000 spectators were on hand.
"We realize this is a very new product for the marketplace," said Darren Rogers, spokesman for the track. "We've been pleasantly surprised with the turnout."
But Rogers says racing at Churchill Downs is still challenged by fields that are too small.
"We would like to see more response from our area horsemen entering our races," said Rogers. "We have full field on this closing weekend, but earlier in the meet, we had some races that were very challenging with some light numbers."
On Friday, Stew Denison from Clarksville was making his second visit to the track this month.
Denison says he would like to see the September meet continue in future years.
"I think it is good for all of the horse owners, all the bettors, and everyone else," he said. "It gives you more opportunity to come to the track."
It looks like September racing will return next year.
"Churchill Downs is about innovation and growth, and September racing is an example of that," Rogers said. "September racing will be back in 2014."
On this last weekend of racing, Saturday night will be a Downs After Dark card billed as a Homecoming Dance.
Sunday, the last day of the meet, will be a Family Fun Day.
After this weekend, racing moves to Keeneland for most of October, and then returns to Churchill Downs at the end of next month, and runs until the end of October.
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