The first two nights of racing under the Twin Spires attracted about 55,000 people to the Louisville track. Churchill does not typically release attendance information, but I'd be willing to wager that the two nightime cards at the track have outdrawn all the Saturdays at the facility since the Derby.
For the most part, each of the Friday cards were unspectacular and included no star power other than Calvin Borel. There were some full fields and decent allowance races, but that kind of talk is more likely to attract the gamblers than casual fans.
On June 27, the day after Churchill's second night of racing, Belmont and Hollywood Parks featured the top two North American racehorses in training on separate coasts. Rachel Alexandra ran in the Mother Goose Stakes at Belmont, and Zenyatta ran in the Vanity Handicap at Hollywood. About 15,000 turned out for the Mother Goose while only 6,800 showed up at Hollywood. Fewer people watched Zenyatta on Saturday afternoon compared to attendance on Friday NIGHT at Hollywood.
For a dying sport, there have been a lot of racetracks built in the past 15 years (seven by my count). Granted, a lot of that has to do with slots (or at least the prospect of expanded gaming eventually), but regardless, the fact remains that each of the tracks built in the past 15 years has included a lighting system to conduct racing at night, and my own experiences with night racing indicate that this could be a growth area for Thoroughbred racing.
- I was at Mountaineer Casino Resort and Race Track on a Saturday in March and attended live racing there at the Chester, West Virginia, racino, and while the crowd trackside (where the poker room is also located) was by no means large, it definitely schewed young compared to racing's stereotypical demographic.
- I went to Fairmount Park in September 2006 for a Saturday night card, and I couldn't believe how young the crowd was. There was a bachelorette party in the clubhouse, and plenty of groups of 20- and 30-somethings on the apron betting races and drinking beer.
- I grew up in Cleveland where Thistledown races Thoroughbreds during the day and Northfield Park races Standardbreds at night. The crowd was ridiculously younger and more "hip" at Northfield.
In the end, of course, tracks and horsemen need to turn attendance into industry dollars through the betting windows and/or via participation in Thoroughbred racehorse ownership. If night racing at world class facilities catches on, though, then I could see more people wanting to be a part of that as an owner.