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Just an overcommitted girl trying to keep up with it all. Mom of three, co-owner of Lemonade PR, sports lover and F1 enthusiast always counting down to the Kentucky Derby. 

Kentucky Derby 101: Everything You Need to Know to Prepare for Derby 147

Apr 22, 2021

Hey friends! I’m back! Nothing to bring me out of a blogging slump like talking Derby to you. It’s clearly my love language.

Are you heading to the track this year or planning to party from home? No doubt things will look a lot different this year but I am beyond thrilled that we’ll be back at the races for Derby week. Right now, I’m planning to go Thurby, Oaks and Derby (yes, it’s a lot… some of it is for work) and trying to figure out what things will look like at Churchill Downs. In talking with friends and you all in DM’s, I think we’re all wondering what to expect. So I’ve teamed up with my friends at America’s Best Racing (remember them from this How to Bet Like a Pro post) to share everything we know so far about what to expect at the track for Derby week.

America’s Best Racing has a wealth of info on everything from betting tips to fashion pointers to detailed breakdowns on all the Derby players (jockeys, trainers, owners). Their Kentucky Derby 147 Cheat Sheet has lots of great info on the track as well as all the information you need of this year’s contenders.

If you’re heading to the track next week, I recommend bookmarking their site or following them on Instagram since they will constantly be sharing more tips, info and betting insights.

How many people will be at the track? What’s the capacity? 

Inside the track, capacity has been capped at 40-50% with only infield general admission tickets available. This means if you’re used to buying a GA ticket and people watching from the Paddock, you’re out of luck.

If you want to make a last minute decision to go, you can still purchase limited infield general admission tickets and there are tickets for sale on the Churchill Downs ticket exchange. Find all the ticket information here. 

All in all, there will be WAY less people roaming around Churchill Downs this year but you can still expect between 70,000 – 80,000 people which is no small gathering.

I’m going to the track. What can and can’t I bring? Tips for getting through the gates with the quickness. 

Woo hoo! I’ll see you there. First step, download the Churchill Downs Racetrack App. It will be the easiest way to access your tickets, find your seat (if you’re unfamiliar) and best of all, allow you to skip concession stand lines to order your food + drinks with Express Pickup.

The biggest thing ladies need to be aware of is how big their purse/bag can be. During Derby Week (Saturday April 24 – Saturday May 1) the rules are a little different than normal. Each guest is permitted one bag no larger than 12″ x 6″ x 12″. You’ll want to get a ruler out and measure to make sure they don’t take it from you. Head over to this post to read more of my Derby purse essentials. 

Some other items of note this year:

  • You’ll be required to wear a protective face covering that fully covers your nose and mouth.
  • You can still bring in a boxed lunch Thurby, Oaks and Derby. They must be in clear plastic bags or containers that do not exceed the maximum size (12″ x 6″ x 12″). You are still limited to one bag only, so if you use it for your food – that’s it.

To see the full list of do’s and don’ts – head over here. 

Likely Alia Dress 

Finchy Baby Hats Fascinator 

What does my ticket include? 

This year, you’re in for a treat. Your Oaks and Derby tickets include all food, non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages. Basically, it’s all-inclusive. The goal is to eliminate the amount of time people spend congregating in lines and the number of touch points between employees and patrons.

So this year, you can responsibly treat yourself to that fancy Old Forester Mint Julep, a Woodford Spire or Oaks Lily without having to pay upwards of $20 a drink. The prices on tickets ended up being a little higher but it seems like it will be well worth it once you’re inside.

Where should I park? 

In short, you shouldn’t. I highly recommend trying to find a ride to and from the track. If you’re coming in town and staying at one of the local hotels, they often have shuttles or can help you arrange transportation.

If you’re local, I’d plan in advance finding a safe ride to and from the track. For the past few years, we’ve paid a graduate student at UofL to drop us off and pick us up. He makes some extra cash and we have a reliable ride there and back. If you can persuade a family member or friend to be your personal Uber, I’d highly recommend it.

If you do decide to park, unless you have a parking pass – you’ll need to park at Cardinal Stadium and either walk or ride the shuttle over to the track.

I need a hat or fascinator! Help! 

There are so many talented local milliners that make one-of-a-kind pieces. It may be too late to get a custom piece but some may be able to tweak an already made piece to better match your outfit. Here’s some of my local faves:

@headcandi – My OG. She always makes my derby pieces and I love Brit I to the moon, if you have a vision she’ll help bring it to life.
@fascinatedesigns – Love their light and airy pieces. Two years ago, I wore one of their stunners to Oaks. 
@jcmillinery – Classy, ladylike, structured one of a kind pieces.
@finchybabyhats – So creative, colorful and fun! The piece above is one of her amazing styles.
@kenziekapp – Gorgeous, light, feminine pieces.
@forme_millinery – Delicate, classic, beautiful styles.
@camhatsnyc – Bold, bright, big styles.

You can check out their IG pages (linked above) to see where they are available locally too. Many of these designers will deliver the piece to your hotel upon arrival in town too. So keep that in mind if you’re from out of town.


I’m new to betting but want to try something other than $10 to Win, any tips?

Yes yes yes. I’m not a regular gambler but I LOVE betting on the races. It’s my guilty pleasure but I don’t give myself a hard time about it since I usually only do it a few times a year. The way I look at it, is that you just need to set a limit for yourself. Whatever you limit – $50, $100, $250 or more – just have that as your guide for the day and bet accordingly. Basically don’t go too hard in the paint early. You’ll want to pace your bets.

This year, the track is hoping to limit touch points so you’re encouraged to wager online using the Twin Spires app. I recommend downloading it before you get to the track and setting it up with all your info so you don’t have to mess with that when you get there.

As for betting, I wrote this whole post on How to Bet Like a Pro that serves as a beginners guide for anyone looking to elevate their game.

And if you’re looking for tips – look no further than the America’s Best Racing Cheat Sheet. It’s got a full breakdown of all the Derby horses, their trainers, owners as well as their race history. Take a look through to pick out your Derby horses so you’ll have your favorite in mind when you arrive. I always like to place a few Derby bets early in the day too. It’s easy to get them out of the way, so you can check out the rest of the races and enjoy a couple cocktails.

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