OK so I love Churchill Downs. And I love that everyone in Louisville loves Churchill Downs. I have pretty much watched a horse race from every part of Churchill Downs, and I can say - they all have their benefits.
The Backside – Of the track…get your mind out of the gutter. It used to be a tradition that every year on Derby Week, my godfather would pick me up at 5am and we would go to the backside and watch the contenders get in their morning workouts and then have breakfast at Wagner's. Since there are races all day at the track, all the horses, trainers, jockeys, and Al Roker are all at the track at 5am to watch the Derby contenders practice and get a read on the times and strength of the horses. And I learned that jockeys are very small people. You get to see the horses, the barns… I love it. I have also been to the backside Derby morning with a friend to attend a crawfish boil before the big day. The backside is like the laid back beer drinking husband to the rest of the track. The infield is their delinquent child…more to come on that. It’s hard to see the races since you are opposite the track from the finish line, but you see them literally feet from your face breaking from the gate and the power of these thoroughbreds is amazing. Overall, by far my favorite part of the track. You can wear jeans and be lazy – drink beer and there is always tons of food. I get to pet the horses, give them carrots and peppermints. The lines to bet and go to the bathroom are really short. On a sunny day with a full day of races…there is not a better place to be.
The Third Floor – Boxes. There are six or eight seats in a box. There are people everywhere. Everyone is dressed to the nines – some are not so cute. I once saw a woman in a head to toe highlighter yellow outfit with matching finger nail polish. Derby really does bring out the best of Kentucky. If you have a box, you are lucky enough to have a seat which is essential with the day full of mint juleps and beer you have ahead of you. If you just have a walk around ticket (what I had)…get ready to fight for open seats. But the vantage point cannot be beat. If you are in the right section, you have a clear view of the horses racing across the finish line. Such excitement! The third floor is normally where I go during the rest of the meet – for $7 you can get in a box.
Millionaire’s Row – Never been here on Derby, but it’s where you will find all the celebs.
General Admission – On a normal day, $2 will get you general admission to the track. On Derby, it’s $40. You gain access to the paddock area and the INFIELD. If you get there around, oh the crack of dawn, you might claim one of the 17 benches and actually see a horse. If not, you are standing still being bumped by drunken rednecks orrrrr you barge your way through and make it to the….
INFIELD – Oh. My. Goodness. Wave your chances of seeing a horse goodbye. It’s like a scene from a movie. You walk through this long dark tunnel and when you emerge, you are in this land of debauchery and ridiculousness. There is a small corner dedicated to families, but I think it gets smaller and smaller every year and I have never actually found it. It’s been compared to Bourbon Street from Mardi Gras rolled into one compact fenced in area. There are beads. There are boobs. There is over-priced alcohol everywhere. I have lost Stud every time I have been. This year he will be leashed. He thinks I am kidding. Going to the infield is an event. You must be mentally prepared. Churchill Downs actually has a CPO – Chief Party Officer – who is elected every year, and is usually an infield fixture. My friend Sammo has an uncle that has been for the past like 30 years. There are people of all ages, and 95% of them are wasted out of their minds.