Churchill Downs targets Indy market with Derby trips

December 21, 2012

Louisville-based Churchill Downs thinks central Indiana is loaded with horse racing fans who would like to see the Kentucky Derby live.

In May, Churchill Downs will roll out its Derby Experiences travel package in the Indianapolis and Chicago markets—using luxury buses to shuttle horse racing fans to and from the race in Louisville, Ky., for the first time. The sale of those packages began this month, and Churchill Downs said early response has been good.
Derby Experiences is a joint venture between Churchill Downs and North Carolina-based sporting event travel company QuintEvents, which is also the NFL’s official provider for the NFL Experience packages to the Super Bowl, Pro Bowl, regular season London game and Draft, as well as the official provider for the NBA All-Star package.
Derby Experiences coach buses will depart from Indianapolis May 2 and return May 5. The departure location has not been set.

Customizable packages—which include a three-night hotel stay—range from $1,949 to $2,499 per person. The packages include tickets to all the weekend’s horse races including Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, access to a hospitality area at the track, a tour of behind-the-scenes training and staging areas, a gift bag and a fast-access badge to get in and out of the track quickly.

Hotels used for the package include the Hampton Inn, Seelbach Hilton and Galt House Hotel.

Tours of horse farms and area distilleries, as well as golf outings, can be added for an additional charge.

QuintEvents started hearing from Indianapolis-area corporate clients during the Super Bowl here in February about their interest in a “turnkey offering” to attend the Kentucky Derby, said company CEO Brian Learst.

“Since we just handled packages for the Super Bowl, we have a fresh client list there,” Learst said. “The early response to this has been really good.”

Learst said he isn’t sure how many packages will be sold, but added “we hope to fill up at least a bus or two.” Each bus, he said, holds about 50 people. The prime selling period for the packages will be January through March, Learst said.

“The Derby is an iconic event, but it can be kind of an intimidating event to attend and navigate if you’ve never been,” Learst said. “With this offering, everything is taken care of. That’s what we heard from people there at the Super Bowl. They’d like to go, if they could get on the bus, close their eyes, and not worry about anything.”

The 138th Run For the Roses in May set an attendance record, according to Churchill Downs officials, with more than 165,000 watching the race live.


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