Thursday, December 5, 2013

My Top Three Kentucky Derby Tips

After 5 trips to the Kentucky Derby, I have made a lot of mistakes and each year, I learn something different. My number one, most important tip is....

Tip #1- Don't drink so much the night before that you're miserable the next day.
I made this mistake in 2012. We pulled into Louisville Thursday evening and hit the town. We ate dinner at Bluegrass Brewing Company downtown and then wandered over to O'Shea's for a few (several?)  more beers. I woke up feeling just dandy but as we walked into Churchill Downs, it started to hit me. I was tired and my head hurt. I was dehydrated and it was HOT that day. Our seats were in the blazing sun, water was $4 a bottle and as the day wore on, water became hard to find. I didn't take any ibuprofen before we left the hotel (apparently in my "old age" my hangovers have a delayed onset) so I went to the First Aid office where they only had aspirin and Tylenol. For me, taking Tylenol is about as effective as eating Tic Tacs so I took the aspirin... which turned out to be about as effective as eating Tic Tacs. Then, to matters worse, I had a Kelly Clarkson song stuck in my head and no matter what I did, I could not get it out of my brain. Ironically, it was the song that goes "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger." That day didn't kill me and it sort of DID make me stronger or at least smarter. I learned not to make that mistake again! Not even the age old Hair of the Dog remedy made me feel better! At around 2:30 or 3 pm, I realized the Oaks race was still 3 hours away and I threw in the towel. I looked at my husband and said, "I just can't do it anymore." We went back to our hotel, took a nap in the blissful air conditioning and after getting some decent food in my stomach (food at Churchill Downs is awful but that's another post), I started to feel human again.

How I learned from this in 2013:
I've learned that wine doesn't make me as miserable as beer the next day so I had wine with dinner on Thursday in 2013. Then I simply didn't drink as much that night.  We also brought in our own bottles of water.

Tip #2- Bring a spare pair of comfortable shoes!
 It's a long, long, long day on your feet. Unless you're someone special and/or super rich, you're starting off your day with a good 10-15 minute walk from your car to Churchill Downs. Wear the flip flops from your car to Churchill Downs and change into your heels once you're inside. You'll want to see the paddock and hit up the gift shop and after a few drinks, you'll break the seal and have to use the bathroom ten a couple times. I consider it a success if I'm still in my heels at 3. Don't be the girl walking around barefoot at the end of the day.

Tip #2.5- Wear your back up comfy shoes a few times before the Derby to make sure they really ARE comfy.  You don't want to tear the tags off and find out they rub your feet in a couple spots.

Tip #3- If there's a souvenir you have to have, buy it early in the day.
I learned this one the hard way in 2008 when I decided around noon on Derby day that I wanted the official poster. Nope. Sold out. We almost had this problem last year when we promised our three year old a green Derby shirt. We had to try at least 4 souvenir stands (lots of walking! Remember tip #2!) to find the green shirt in the smallest size. Which is still gigantic on him and it probably won't fit till he's 5 or 6. But we kept our promise! It stinks to carry it around all day but if you have to have it, it's worth it. Or if you're going to the Oaks and the Derby, pick it up near the end of the day on Oaks day.

 The poster that most likely will never grace my walls.


  1. Hi Annie,

    Thanks so much for your valuable insights. I am surprising my dad for his 60th birthday with this year's derby. I have all accomodations and flights (we're from California) and everything, but I am hesitant regarding tickets. Have you heard anything about the Section 110 seats offered from Churchill? The $700/ticket is a bit steep, but if the booze/food is unlimited and offers an actual chance to see some horses, then I might have to pull the trigger. Any info would be much appreciated!


    1. I haven't sat in 110- I think it was new last year. The thing about 110 is that it's past the finish line. If you have a view of the track (in bleacher sections people stand on their seats for the Derby so unless you're 7 feet tall, you won't see the actual race), you'll see them go by once as they round the first turn and then again as they cool down. You won't have a good view of them coming down the stretch and finishing. But if you don't have a view of the track because people are standing in front of you, it's a moot point. However you will get to see the winner's victory walk.
      The more I think about it, I think it might be the way to go at this point.
      $700 is steep but compared to what people are asking on StubHub, it's not that bad of a deal. I kept track of ticket prices last year on StubHub and a year ago, a ticket in section 324 was $769. This year it's $950. I have no clue why they're almost $200 more. And those prices are for the Derby only. You'd have to buck up for Oaks too or skip it.
      I can't find any info on the drinks/food aspect of 110. All I can find is hospitality is included. I'm assuming it's a buffet style lunch. Will you have to get up and get your drinks or will they have the beer/julep guys wandering the aisles like other sections? Maybe it doesn't even matter to you? But if you're walking around outside of your "free drinks" section, expect to pay $9-11/drink.
      So, long story short, I'd go for the trackside seats in 110 and pray for good weather! Good luck!

  2. A nice blog presented and the information is written is very nicely shown, I just came through your blog it’s really good. Kentycky Derby Home Rentals
    Derby Home Rentals