Derby Day at Belterra Park
Photography provided by Belterra Park
Where will you be May 6 when the bugler blows the Call to Post for the 143rd running of Kentucky Derby?
If you’re in the Greater Cincinnati area, you can head to Belterra Park Gaming, just off Interstate 275 in Anderson Township, where you’ll experience the excitement of the Derby as if you were at Churchill Downs in Louisville.
Steve Newsome, advertising manager for Belterra Park, promises a week filled with Derby-themed promotions and events, culminating that Saturday with hat and dress contests and the simulcast of the race on the big screens at 6:34 p.m.
“The Kentucky Derby is our biggest volume day of the year,” Newsome says. “Usually, about 20,000 guests gather to not only watch live racing taking place at Belterra Park, but also to celebrate the Kentucky Derby and all of the traditions and circumstances that surround that. This is Cincinnati’s Derby Week. This is one of the biggest horse-racing markets outside of Kentucky.”
Belterra Park Gaming is the former River Downs Racetrack, which opened in 1925 as Coney Island Racetrack. Belterra parent Pinnacle Entertainment, which bought the racetrack in 2011, completely overhauled the property in a $300 million conversion to a racino. In addition to live and simulcast horse racing, Belterra Park offers five restaurants, dozens of big-screen TVs and more than 1,300 video slot machines.
“I can’t tell you how many guests say, ‘I used to come to River Downs with my dad,’ ” Newsome says. “It’s so ingrained in the heritage and traditions of Cincinnati.”
Derby Week is especially popular at Belterra Park.
“We have an entire week’s worth of activities planned for our guests,” Newsome says. “One of the neater things that we do throughout the week is incorporate bourbon into everything at the property – whether it’s food or some of the contests.”
This year, bourbon distiller Maker’s Mark is sponsoring a big party on Oaks Day, which is the day before the Derby. The running of the Kentucky Oaks also will be simulcast from Churchill, at 5:49 p.m., with Rozzi’s fireworks that night. Then Derby Day gets interesting, with patrons coming and going throughout the day.
“We encourage our guests, especially on Derby Day, to experience it as if the Derby would be at Belterra Park,” Blair Bendel, vice president of marketing for Belterra Park, says. “So we have a lot of guests who come in their Derby finest, with the hats, nice dresses and bow ties. We have a hat contest that’s evolving every year. We pick out the favorite hats, and we have awards for best overall outfit.”
Gentlemen also compete for best-dressed in a contest called Dapper Dan.
Prizes range from cash to a complimentary meal at Belterra Park to overnight stays at Belterra Casino Resort in Florence, Indiana, also part of the Pinnacle family.
When the Derby goes off, about 10,000 fans will watch at Belterra, Newsome says.
“The whole week, we’ve got something going on whether it’s promotions or dinner specials,” he says. “We really want people to come out and experience the property in a couple of different ways, including watching the race with 10,000 of your closest friends.”
The 1-million-square-foot Belterra Park is open 24 hours a day for gaming and horse race betting. The park simulcasts races from throughout the U.S., along with key global races.
In addition to the passionate horse racing fans, Newsome says there’s another category of patrons who come to Belterra Park for entertainment.
“This is a really cool atmosphere, with the rolling hills of Kentucky in the background, right behind the track,” he says. “This whole track opens up into this picturesque setting in the Ohio River valley. Young professionals come out, dress up, wear a fancy bow tie, grab a beer, maybe bet on a few races, but really come out for the social and entertainment value of it.”
Belterra Park Gaming
- Free admission.
- Live horse racing from April 28 through mid-October this year (race days are Thursday-Sunday, starting at 1:20 p.m.).
- 48,000-square-foot gaming floor with more than 1,300 video lottery terminals (slots) accepting bets from a penny to $100.
- Restaurants: Favorites Steak & Pasta (Italian-style steakhouse); Market Buffet (modeled after Findlay Market in Over-the-Rhine); Stadium Sports Bar & Grill (250 seats; 50-plus TVs; more than 100 beers); Burger Brothers (quick service); and Nosh (coffee and pastries).
- River Downs Club: 40 big-screen TVs simulcasting races from the U.S. and some global tracks.
- Grandstand seats 1,200 for live racing.
Belterra Park Gaming & Entertainment Center is located at 6301 Kellogg Avenue, Cincinnati, OH 45230. For more information, call 513.232.8000 or visit www.belterrapark.com.