Talk Derby To Me
The Kentucky Derby, known as “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports” is held every year on the first Saturday in May at historic Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. This is the single most important event for the city of Louisville as it brings people from all over the world, numerous celebrities, immense publicity, and not to mention, a great deal of revenue. I have not been to any other legs of the Triple Crown so I cannot compare the Derby to the Preakness Stakes or Belmont Stakes, but this is definitely the most renowned of the three.
Like the other two races, outside alcoholic beverages are prohibited at Churchill Downs. That being said, people still and probably will always find a way to sneak alcohol into Churchill Downs. Every year brings new challenges and guests never fail to rise to the occasion and get back at the man. Some of the more creative ways I’ve seen alcohol smuggled inside include: gallon bags of fruit filled with grain alcohol, binoculars that double as a flask, sandals that double as a flask, and probably my favorite, a large loaf of Italian bread hollowed out and stuffed with bottles of liquor. I’ve even seen some people go as far as to take advantage of a handicapped pal and use his wheelchair to conceal their stash. Even if you do manage to sneak alcohol inside, you must be very careful not to keep it in plain sight, there are numerous cops walking around in street clothes looking for just that.
As you can well imagine, the reason people try to sneak alcohol in every year is that the drinks inside are grossly overpriced. Canned beer costs somewhere between $3 and $5 a can, a mint julep set me back $9. For those who are unfamiliar with mint juleps, they are the official beverage of the Derby; you will literally see them everywhere. A mint julep consists of bourbon, sugar, mint, and water; very similar to a Mojito except for the bourbon. The official bourbon of the Kentucky Derby is Early Times, and that is what you’ll get in any julep you order at here. One perk of buying a mint julep at the Derby (other than the fact that it’s delicious) is the glass in which it is served. It makes for a very nice souvenir and includes the names of all the past winners.
What Goes On?
So now that you know about the alcohol situation, what exactly is there to do at the Derby? To put it simply, drink, gamble, and socialize. Depending on what kind of time you want to have, there are different sections of Churchill Downs you may want to go. I personally have never been anywhere but the infield, and that is where most college kids end up. General admission tickets ($40 each) grant access to the infield only; other sections of are guaranteed to lighten your wallet quite a bit more and are probably not conducive to the college “raging” mentality. The infield is quite a sight to a first time visitor; there are about 100,000 people in the infield every year, many of whom are dressed in all sorts of crazy costumes. One tradition that takes place every year in the infield is the Port-a-Potty run. Some drunk guys (and occasionally girls) will run across the top of about 30 Port-a-Potties, all the while getting pelted with beer cans, beads, pretty much anything that can be thrown. Almost without fail, that person is met at the end of the row by Louisville’s finest, but it makes for quite a story to tell your friends.
There are several stations located throughout the area where you can place your bets. Quite a few races are held before the actual big one, so there are many opportunities to win or lose money. The first race is held at 11 AM (gates open at 8 AM) and the Derby is not until around 5 PM.
From personal experience, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity; it is the single biggest event in horse racing and there is a certain pride involved with being able to say you were a part of it. You may never even see a horse the entire time you are here, but the atmosphere really generates the sense that you are experiencing history in the making. I highly recommend making the trip to Louisville for this event; Churchill Downs is one of the most historic sporting venues in the world and its recent renovations have only upgraded its appeal. The city of Louisville is a growing, vibrant place with small town charm and big city opportunity. One visit to my hometown and you’re sure to fall in love.
By Robert Fanning