Photo: Eclipse Sportswire
With more than 3,000 pounds of turkey ready to be carved, alongside all of the fixings, Thanksgiving Day at Churchill Downs has been a Louisville, Ky., tradition for nearly a half-century.
“It’s probably our busiest day of the year outside of Derby Week and the Breeders’ Cup,” said Levy Restaurants’ David Danielson, the executive chef at Churchill Downs. “We start preparing the meal months in advance to ensure we have enough food to serve everyone attending. Since we have to order so much food, especially turkeys, we have to start planning our shipments months ahead of time.”
Danielson, alongside a team of several hundred chefs, will begin cooking the Thanksgiving meal around 1 a.m. Thursday. The menu consists of preparing nearly 3,200 pounds of turkey, 2,400 pounds of spiral ham, 2,500 pounds of red potatoes, 2,200 pounds of sweet potatoes, 1,000 pounds of butter, 2,700 pounds of green beans, 1,000 pies and 700 pounds of cranberry jelly.
“By Wednesday most of the items are prepped and ready to cook,” Danielson said. “This is one of my favorite times of the year at the track because of how many families come out to enjoy Thanksgiving together.”
The first year that Churchill Downs raced on Thanksgiving Day was 1969. Around 8,000 turkey dinners will be served with all the trimmings, making it the largest number anywhere in the region.
Thursday’s first race begins early at 11:30 a.m. ET. The 12-race card includes the $200,000 Falls City Handicap (G2) and $100,000 Cardinal Handicap (G3), and wraps up at 4:50 p.m.
Divine Miss Grey odds on in Falls City
East-coast invader Divine Miss Grey will seek he second victory of the month at Churchill Downs as the heavy 3-5 morning line choice in Thursday’s Falls City Handicap.
Trained by New York-based Danny Gargan, Divine Miss Grey (22: 11-5-1—$807,672) rallied from just off the early pace in the Chilukki (G2) to defeat four rivals as the 4-5 favorite. The Kentucky-bred filly previously finished second by 3 ¼ lengths in Belmont Park’s $400,000 Beldame Invitational (G1) on Oct. 6 after winning the $182,000 Dr. James Penny Memorial Stakes at Parx by 7 ¾ lengths in September.
“I’m likely going to send 30 horses to Lexington next spring,” Gargan said. “So, hopefully we’ll be (at Churchill Downs) a lot more next year with horses like this one.”
The complete field for the Falls City Handicap (with jockey, trainer, assigned weight and morning line odds): Divine Miss Grey (Tyler Gaffalione, Gargan, 122 pounds, 3-5); Mannerly (Julien Leparoux, Brendan Walsh, 117, 6-1); Dutch Parrot (Ricardo Santana Jr., Will VanMeter, 116, 12-1); Skeptic (Brian Hernandez Jr., Rusty Arnold II, 116, 12-1); Dreamcall (Albarado, Asmussen 119, 6-1); Prado’s Sweet Ride (Florent Geroux, Chris Block, 118, 10-1); Honor Ride (Corey Lanerie, Grant Forster, 114, 20-1); Red Dane (Edgar Morales, Charlie LoPresti, 116, 10-1).
Thanksgiving weekend races taking shape
Six graded stakes races cumulatively worth $1.4 million highlight closing week of the 21-day Fall Meet at Churchill Downs. Below are the probable entrants to Saturday’s Stars of Tomorrow II program which will be drawn Wednesday, per Assistant Racing Secretary and Stakes Coordinator Dan Bork:
The $200,000 Golden Rod (G2) – for 2-year-old fillies run at 1 1/16 miles: Champagne Anyone (Ian Wilkes); Gold Credit (Ignacio Correas); High Regard (Vicki Oliver); Liora (Catalano); Meadow Dance (Brad Cox); Princess Causeway (Wilkes); Reflect (Desormeaux); Restless Rider (McPeek).