Churchill Downs' Track Is Frozen, So It's Calling Off Racing on Wednesday

Nov 18, 2014

For the first time in 28 years, Churchill Downs has canceled a day of racing because the racetrack is frozen.

Credit Churchill Downs

Icy track conditions and low temperatures led Churchill Downs to call off the 10 races scheduled for Wednesday. Track officials said they decided to cancel the races out of concerns for the safety of the jockeys and horses.

“Our track maintenance crew and officials have deemed that the track, which is currently frozen, will not improve significantly before Wednesday,” Churchill Downs spokesman Darren Rogers said.

He said that maintenance crews will continue to operate tractors with harrows on the racetrack at all hours of the evening. 

Weather-related cancellations are rare for Churchill Downs.

“This is only the 19th such cancellation in our 140 year history,” Rogers said. ”It’s only the sixth time that we’ve had to cancel during the fall meet due to a frozen race track or a snowy condition.”

Rogers said the last time Churchill Downs canceled racing because of a frozen track was Nov. 13, 1986. He said the racetrack can freeze anytime the temperature drops below freezing.

“We’re hopeful that as the temperatures rise above freezing on Wednesday afternoon the track maintenance team can continue their work and harrow in the racetrack, unfreezing it and making it suitable condition for racing on Thursday,” Rodgers said.

The overnight low in Louisville is forecast to be about 17 degrees, according to the National Weather Service. The high temperature Wednesday is forecast to reach about 41 degrees.

Rogers said the horses in the meantime have heaters in the barns and are still receiving exercise.

“When they can't go to the racetrack, [the stablehands] will typically pack walk a horse around the barn that way they are able to stretch their legs and have some form of exercise,” Rogers said.

When racing resumes, he said, the cold weather is a challenge for the jockeys but not necessarily the horses.

“You'll see them bundled up wearing almost a ski mask and gloves while they're riding. It can become quite challenging,” Rogers said. “The horses, on the other hand, they really like the cold weather. If you speak with any horseman, they thrive off it.”

When temperatures are low on race days, Churchill Downs will have shorter post parades.

Simulast wagering on races at other tracks in North America will remain available at Trackside. Admission will be free Wednesday and gates will open at 11:30 a.m.

Churchill Downs will contact patrons who have purchased seating for the races on Wednesday to reschedule their visit.

From Churchill Downs, here are the  documented times the racetrack has closed because of weather:

Date                       Reason

Nov. 19, 2014      Frozen racetrack

June 28, 2012     Extreme Heat

June 23, 2011      Clean-up of damage following June 22 tornado

May 8, 2009        Heavy rain, thunder & lightning

May 30, 2004      Severe weather, tornado warnings

June 6, 1990        Severe weather, tornado warnings

Nov. 13, 1986       Frozen racetrack

Nov. 24, 1970       Frozen racetrack

Nov. 23, 1970       Frozen racetrack

Nov. 17, 1959        Frozen racetrack

Nov. 4, 1936         Snow

Sept. 29, 1884      Rain

Sept. 27, 1884      Rain

Sept. 24, 1884      Rain

Oct. 4, 1883          Rain

Oct. 1, 1883          Mud

May 22, 1883       Rain

Sept. 28, 1882      Rain

Sept. 21, 1882      Mud