54th fall racing season kicks off at Turfway Park

FLORENCE, KY (FOX19) - Turfway Park open its 54th fall thoroughbred racing season with four packed days of events.

Post time Thursday and Friday is 6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 1:10 p.m. The first Friday meet centers around the 5th Annual Horses and Hope Pink Race Day, a celebration of breast cancer survivors from all walks of life, hosted by Kentucky First lady Jane Beshear. About 200 guests are expected for a reception and a race named in their honor.

The evening's special guest is Patricia "P. J." Cooksey, a breast cancer survivor, former jockey, and now director of public relations for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. A trailblazer for female riders, Cooksey in 1984 was the second woman to ride in the Kentucky Derby and the following year was the first woman to ride in the Preakness Stakes. Cooksey retired in 2004 with 2,136 career victories, one of just three women to break the 2,000 mark.

Turfway's popular mascot races also return Sept. 7, but this year's costumed competitors will run for more than a trophy. Fans on track can "bet" their favorite mascot, with proceeds going to Horses and Hope. Those who pick the top three finishers will be entered in drawings for prizes, with the winner's backers eligible for an overnight stay at Horseshoe Casino Southern Indiana.

Sept. 7 also marks the meet's first Dollar Friday, newly renamed Double Down Dollar Friday. Besides the familiar dollar draft beer and hot dogs, soft drinks also can be had for a dollar and fans can place dollar win, place, and show bets. Larger drafts and other specials debut for two dollars. Live acoustic music in the outdoor Corona Cantina provides the soundtrack for Friday's 11 races. First post on Friday is 6:00 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 8, brings back the free family fun of Fan Appreciation Day. Scheduled from noon to 6 p.m., the day offers enjoy pony rides, a petting zoo, face painting, carnival-style games, balloon art, and a playground area for children as well as strolling musicians, demonstrations of horse care, visits to the stables, handicapping lessons, and giveaways of t-shirts, racing programs, and a flat-screen television. Among the day's unique attractions, fans may sign up to visit track announcer and NBC commentator Mike Battaglia as he calls a race. All Fan Appreciation Day events are free, and a dollar menu makes the day easy on the family budget. Saturday's 11 races start at 1:10 p.m.