As Downs After Dark draws casual fans, smaller purses create wor - WDRB 41 Louisville News

As Downs After Dark draws casual fans, smaller purses create worry over future of September meet

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Churchill Downs kicked off its second annual September meet Friday night, but purses are lower this year and there aren't very many horses racing.

Churchill Downs inaugurated the September meet last year to provide Kentucky horsemen with an extra opportunity to compete. The lower purses and participation pose question of whether or not the competition elsewhere is too stiff for the track.

"We did it a year ago, over 12 racing dates and we're looking forward to doing it again," spokesperson Darren Rogers said. “We're doing it and just hoping to throw out a nice entertainment offering for our horsemen, the core horse players and the casual fans and entertainment seekers as well."

The Downs After Dark experience is a draw for the less serious horse racing fans, who might come for the atmosphere and don't even watch the races.

To draw the horsemen you need to offer more prize money, but the prize money at Churchill Downs is reportedly down.

We asked trainer Patrick Byrne is the horsemen are going elsewhere because purses are too small?

“It's a worry for sure,” he said, “but we just have to keep grinding out, keep grinding out and living and just keep moving forward.”

He said the sport itself is up against gaming competition. “It's kind of a downward trend right now. We've got a lot of competition. A lot of horses are still up in New York," Byrne said.

"There's also a lot of politics with the casinos and casino money and all that stuff which is -- unfortunately , in the state of Kentucky, we haven't been able to get that but hopefully the time will come and the purses will be a little better for us."

The September meet is also convenient for Byrne because he calls Louisville home during the summer. “It's just so nice to be here in September, opposed to driving everywhere."

Despite rumors of this being the second and last year for the September meet, Darren Rogers with Churchill downs says otherwise.

"We've applied for September racing dates in 2015, but that speaks volumes at this time," Rogers explained.

The logo for Derby 141 will be unveiled at the track Saturday.

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