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U Of L Loses To Akron In Championship Game

The University of Louisville men’s soccer team has taken second place in the NCAA College Cup.

The Cardinals lost 1-0 to the University of Akron Sunday in the championship game. U of L had previously beaten North Carolina in the semi-finals.

This is Akron’s first NCAA championship in any team sport.

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Churchill Downs To Test Fall Night Racing

Churchill Downs will test the viability of fall night racing Friday.

The Downs After Dark event Friday is the only one in the fall meet. Spokesperson Darren Rogers says if it’s successful, the events will return next fall.

“We’re preparing for a crowd of up to 25,000, although we really don’t have any idea as to how many people will actually attend,” he says. “We averaged about 27,000 during our spring Downs After Darks. This is a first-time event for all of us.”

Churchill Downs hosted several Downs After Dark events this spring. Rogers says the track will host four more next spring.

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Louisville Hopes To Lure WEG Visitors With New Festival

City officials Tuesday announced the Experience Louisville Festival. Many of the festival events will be familiar to Louisvillians.

The festival corresponds with the World Equestrian Games, which begin next month in Lexington. The festival is a collection of annual events like the Idea Festival and St. James Art Fair, plus days with extended hours at several local attractions.

The goal of the festival is to lure World Equestrian Games visitors to Louisville.

Andrew Beshear is the chair of Louisville’s host committee for the games. He says he’s not trying to lure anyone away from the games to Louisville events.

“Most of them occur at night, after the games,” he says. “And we’re also targeting people for their bookend dates: a lot of people will come in from out of town, will go to the games for two days, but will have two days on the side. And we want to bring them into Louisville during those bookend dates.”

There will also be an economic development event for visitors to learn about business opportunities in Kentucky.

“It’s going to be primarily for business people from out of state or from out of the country to where we’re going to get a chance to talk with them about the great business environment that Louisville offers,” says Beshear.

The World Equestrian Games are September 25th through October 10th. Beshear says he has high expectations for the festival, despite lagging ticket sales and hotel bookings for the games.

“They’re a little lower than was originally projected when the games were first announced they were going to come here—it was before the current recession. But we think we’ve still got a good group of people. We have events designed to bring people here,” he says.

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KFC Yum! Center To Open Early, Host Eagles Concert

The KFC Yum! Center at 2nd and Main Streets in Louisville will open about three weeks ahead of schedule.

Construction on the arena is 25 days ahead of schedule and will be completed on October 10th.

Mayor Jerry Abramson says the arena be open the following three days for free tours.

“It’ll be open to the public, it’ll be free,” he says. “We’ll have those days set aside. They’ll be running those tours at appropriate times.”

The first major event at the arena will be an Eagles concert on October 16th. AEG director of booking Dennis Petrullo says the concert is a sign of things to come at the arena.

“I think that this commitment is a sign of the industry’s interest and support for this wonderful new facility in downtown Louisville,” he says.

The first basketball game will be played in the arena on November 12th, when the University of Louisville women’s team takes on Tennessee. The men’s team will play Butler four days later.

Ground was broken on the $238 million arena in November 2006.

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Super Saver Being Readied For May 15 Preakness

by Gabe Bullard

The winner of Saturday’s Kentucky Derby is now being prepped for the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore.

Super Saver brought trainer Todd Pletcher his first career Derby victory.   He says the horse has met all expectations leading up to the Derby.   

“This horse didn’t particularly have any setbacks. He just needed some time to really get going as well as he can go. There’s nothing…he didn’t miss any days of training. He was just kind of getting a little better as went along,” he said.

But while Super Saver won the Derby, the colt Ice Box ran a strong race, staying near the outside of the track and finishing second.

Ice Box trainer Nick Zito says he hasn’t decided whether he’ll enter his horse in the Preakness.

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Borel, Pletcher Talk Derby Win

by Gabe Bullard

Trainer Todd Pletcher’s “Derby drought” ended Saturday at Churchill Downs.

Prior to this year, Pletcher had trained 24 Kentucky Derby contenders, but he never trained a winner until Saturday, when the colt Super Saver beat out 19 other horses to win the Derby.

Pletcher had four horses in this year’s Derby, including ninth and tenth place finishers Mission Impazible (Impossible) and Devil May Care. He says he’s happy to win a Derby, but it isn’t necessarily a reflection of his talent as a trainer.

“It’s like I said before, I’m not better trainer today than I was yesterday, no better than when I woke up this morning,” he says. “I wont’ be any better tomorrow. We’ll try to keep doing everything the way we’ve always done it.”

Saturday also marked the third Derby win in four years for jockey Calvin Borel, who won last year and in 2007.

With the track in sloppy condition after a day of rainfall, Borel stuck close to the rail to steer Super Saver to victory. Borel used the same strategy last year on longshot Mine That Bird, and it’s become known as his signature strategy, earning him the nickname ‘bo-rail.’ But Borel says riding the inside track can only be done with the right horse.

“Some horses don’t like to be there…you’ve got to go around,” he says. “I was just taught that’s the shortest way around. I love to ride the fence. I think the horse is very comfortable there because they’re always there all the time.”

It’s now on to the May 15th Preakness Stakes for Pletcher, Super Saver and Borel. Borel also won last year’s Preakness atop filly Rachel Alexandra.

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Derby Post Position Drawing Reverts To Traditional Method

by Gabe Bullard

The draw for post positions for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby will be held Wednesday at noon at Churchill Downs.

For the last twelve years the draw determined the order in which trainers would choose their horses’ post position. Churchill Downs spokesperson Darren Rogers says that’s not the case this year.s1

“We’re going to revert back to our traditional pill pull where horses’ entry blanks, they’re pulled simultaneously with a numbered pill to determine what stall a horse will break from in the starting gate,” he says.

Rogers says the decision was made after ESPN decided not to broadcast the draw.

Positions for the Kentucky Oaks were drawn Tuesday. Early favorite Blind Luck will run from post position 5.

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Pitino Plans To Stay At U Of L Through 2017

by Gabe Bullard

University of Louisville men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino says he wants to stay at the school until 2017 and then retire at age 65.

Pitino’s current contract is set to expire in 2013, but today (Wednesday), the U of L Athletics Association Personnel Committee moved to negotiate a four year extension. The terms of the contract have yet to be defined and the full association must vote on it, but Pitino says he plans to stay in Louisville.

“I’ve always thought as a young coach the grass was greener elsewhere. And most young coaches think that,” he says. “And as you get older—I should not say older—as you get wiser, you realize the grass is not greener elsewhere.”

Pitino, who has been at U of L for nine years, currently makes about $2.5 million annually. He will receive a $3.6 million loyalty bonus Thursday.

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Fair Board Prepares To Book Freedom Hall

by Gabe Bullard and Rick Howlett

The Kentucky State Fair Board is preparing to keep Freedom Hall active once the new downtown arena opens.

The U of L men’s basketball team plays its last game at the 54 year old Freedom Hall on Saturday against Syracuse. Both the men’s and women’s teams will play in the new arena when it opens in November.

Kentucky Fair Board president Harold Workman says the arena may host some events that would have been held in Freedom Hall in the past. But he says not having the Cardinals playing at the hall will help the board book more events than before.

“Our sales staff is excited about the challenge of not only selling the Louisville Arena, but having dates in Freedom Hall they can offer that they haven’t been able to provide before,” he says.

The board has hired the talent firm AEG to book events at both facilities.

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Cardinals Face Wildcats Saturday

The University of Louisville and University of Kentucky men’s basketball teams face off Saturday.

The 10-3 Cardinals will travel to Lexington to take on the undefeated Wildcats.

Mark Bacon is the host of WFPL and WFPK’s basketball podcast. He says it’ll be tough for any team to beat the Wildcats, but Louisville’s chances rely heavily on two factors.

“Long-range shooting is real key, but I think the first key is defense,” says Bacon. “Defense wins games. They’ve got a great coach with Rick Pitino in terms of teaching defensive schemes and pressures, they’ve been drilled in the fundamentals of it, now they’ve got to go out and bring the best game they’ve ever brought to stop this juggernaut that is the Wildcats.”

Tipoff is 3:30 at Rupp Arena.