Churchill Downs, Sports Illustrated Team Up on Restaurant for Derby Week

Posted on: January 9, 2024, 12:17h. 

Last updated on: January 9, 2024, 11:23h.

Churchill Downs and Sports Illustrated have announced a naming rights deal for a new restaurant at the venerable home of the Kentucky Derby.

Kentucky Derby
Rich Strike streaks past Epicenter in the final strides of the 2022 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. The racetrack is partnering with Sports Illustrated on a new dining venue. (Image: Coady Photography)

Club SI, which was originally planned to be the 1895 Club, is expected to open ahead of the 150th Kentucky Derby on May 4. Financial terms of the partnership between the gaming company and the sports media publication weren’t disclosed.

Club SI will debut as part of the $200 million renovated Paddock Project at Churchill Downs for the upcoming 150th Kentucky Derby and offer a new luxury equine-focused dining experience with an immersive view of the all-new Paddock and Paddock Runway giving guests unparalleled behind-the-scenes experiences,” according to a statement issued by Kentucky-based Churchill Downs.

The renovated paddock is widely viewed as a catalyst for Churchill Downs, and is expected to lure more visitors to the “Run For the Roses” and other marquee races at the track.

Churchill Downs, SI to Leverage Star Power

Churchill Downs and Sports Illustrated added that celebrity ambassadors will greet guests at Club SI each year during the Kentucky Derby and the Kentucky Oaks. The venue will be adorned with iconic covers of the famed sports magazine, as well as other sports-related art.

“The club will be open on premium race days and include dining tables to accommodate parties of two, four, six, or eight guests, who will enjoy gourmet dishes from the curated Chef’s Table Buffet, designated wagering windows, private bars, and outdoor trackside viewing for live races,” added the gaming company.

While Churchill Downs has no Las Vegas Strip exposure, and there are lingering concerns about the state of the U.S. horse racing industry, the stock is a gaming favorite on Wall Street. Catalysts include an extensive pipeline of high return on investment projects, benefits from the Exacta and P2E acquisitions, and the emerging growth story tied to historical horse racing (HHR) machines. The paddock is one of those projects.

The storied racetrack is also in the midst of a $14 million update of its Jockey Club Suites.

Other Amenities at Club SI

As the first leg of the Triple Crown races, the Kentucky Derby is the most-wagered on and watched horse race in the U.S., and has a long history of drawing the rich and famous. As such, upscale amenities at the track are a must, and Club SI fits that bill.

Steps from the club, guests will be treated to the SI Enclosure, which will deliver a front-row experience of the Paddock with covered outdoor dining tables to accommodate parties of four,” according to the statement.

In addition to its portfolio of racetracks, Churchill Downs operates 11 regional casinos across 10 states, and historical horse racing (HHR) facilities in Kentucky, Virginia, and shortly, New  Hampshire.