Having just returned from our first-ever trip to the Kentucky Derby, we thought we’d offer some advice to those considering going next year. Remember, this comes from two girls who until now only knew about horse racing from My Fair Lady, so proceed at your own risk:
1. Don’t expect to see any actual horses. If you are like most of us working stiffs, you will only be able to afford a $40 ticket to the infield — i.e. the big expanse of muddy grass in the middle of the track. This is basically Spring Break in Cancun masquerading as a sporting event. Here, you can see many things: mud wrestling, slip n’ slide tournaments, drunken men wearing twister boards. Horses, however, you will be lucky to catch on a TV screen. On the plus side, beers are very, very accessible.
2. Speaking of alcohol... you must try a mint julep. Sure, they cost $9, but they are an essential part of the derby tradition. Plus, they’re nice and girly. A blend of bourbon and sugar water, they taste like Long Island Teas with a spring of mint. Mmmm, refreshing.
3. Wear a hat. It doesn’t have to be as fancy as the bouquets decorating the heads of the real southern ladies, but some kind of shade is useful. If it’s sunny and you pass out from too many juleps, you won’t get as burned. Or, in the more likely case of pouring rain, your hairdo will have some protection.
4. Bring many single dollar bills. No, there are not strippers at the Derby (sorry to disappoint), but there are long lines for bathrooms. If you’re stumbling out afterwards and looking for a quick place to pee, beware of the nearby residents who offer relief in their homes. We’re told some charge $2 a pop.
5. Don’t forget to bet. There are multiple races throughout the day—before and after the main derby event — and you can have fun just wagering a buck or two. Plus, it’s really cool to watch the winning pot jump from $1.7 million to $2.5 million during the race, and feel you have contributed in some small way.
6. Forget about seeing the Queen. Everyone asked us how many famous people we spotted at the derby, and the answer was a big fat nada. Churchill Downs may be the last place in America where class distinctions are still celebrated and strictly enforced. The rich folks get the box seats, the rest of us wade through the mud. Embrace it. You’re in Kentucky, after all.
For more fast-paced action, go to the slideshow of our adventure
. -- Lisa Rab & Rebecca Meiser