Local’s guide to the Kentucky Derby
Tyler Wojciak | Friday, April 24, 2015
There truly is nothing like it.
Every year during the first Saturday of May, 20 three-year-old thoroughbreds race the length of 1 1/4 miles around a dirt track in “the most exciting two minutes in sports.”
The beautiful Churchill Downs racetrack hosts around 165,000 spectators each year to watch the event, and roughly 15 million more people will tune in on their televisions.
The Kentucky Derby, an event oozing with tradition, attracts the finest visitors from all around the world every year and is an essential item on the bucket list for anyone who is a fan of sport. From the bugler piping out “Call to the Post” to the singing of “My Old Kentucky Home” to the garland of roses draped over the winning horse, few spectacles in sports match the Derby.
As it has become a tradition for many college students to venture to Louisville, Kentucky, every year for the Derby, I feel it is my duty as a local to tell you a few things you need to know about the Run for the Roses.
I must first say, however, I was actually not born in Louisville. My love for the Derby was not simply something I inherited at birth, but rather adopted when I made the move from Cleveland to Louisville at 11 years old. At first I had absolutely no interest in a bunch of horses running on dirt (something I’m sure a lot of you still feel), but my mind instantly changed after my first experience at Churchill Downs.
The first order of business is the dress code. The basic guideline here is the more expensive your ticket, the more formal your outfit. With that said, it is still the Kentucky Derby. If you choose to pay $50 for the general admission ticket just to party in the infield, a button-down (you can wear seersucker if you really want to get into Derby fashion) and khaki pants is the way to go for men and a sundress for women. And ladies, wear a hat. While I may not understand why females are obsessed with derby hats, I recognize one is considered an essential piece to any woman’s outfit when they attend the Derby, and you will stick out without one.
Second, you have to bring cash. Lots of it. Nearly everything you will want to do at Churchill Downs requires cash. Parking, drink vendors and betting all require cash payments. So take my advice and avoid being one of the many unprepared people spending their first hour at the track waiting in line at the ATM.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to bet. There will be races going on all day, and rather than the 20 horses racing in the Derby, the preliminary races usually do not include more than 10 horses. Your odds are slightly better than you think, and there is still a lot of money to be made off the $2 minimum bets. Putting just a little bit of money on the races will add some excitement to races you normally wouldn’t find entertained and will keep you engaged throughout the day.
Will this be the year a horse finally wins the Triple Crown for the first time since Affirmed won the Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes in 1978? Will a horse break the two-minute mark at the Derby, joining Secretariat and Monarchos as the only members of this elite club? All these questions will be answered May 2. Follow my three tips, and your Kentucky Derby experience is sure to be a memorable one regardless of who wins.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.