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Archive for Sunday, April 29, 2001

Kentucky Derby a winning draw even if you can’t sit

April 29, 2001

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Long before casinos became an integral part of the travel-and-vacation landscape, folks who wanted to mix gambling with recreation trekked to the track for a day at the races.

And while the glory days of horse racing are long gone and tracks have struggled, the Kentucky Derby oft trumpeted as the "greatest two minutes in sports" remains a magical event.

The Derby is held the first Saturday in May May 5 this year and attracts more than 150,000 fans to Louisville's legendary Churchill Downs.

Getting reserved seats for the race is often a mission impossible. (Obviously, those tickets are long gone for this year's race; people who are hopeful for 2002 will begin sending their requests the day after the 2001 race.)

Thousands of people who don't have reserved seats still attend the Derby in the track infield, for which tickets are purchased standing room only the day of the race.

Admission is $40 and entitles visitors to a spot in the frequently muddy and invariably raucous infield. Many bring lawn chairs and coolers.

The turnstiles open at 8 a.m. The most rabid "railbirds" stand in line all night to get choice perches along the rail.

While the "groundlings" may not have the view that the swells enjoy from Millionaire's Row, the low-rollers get to wager like everyone else. The infield is equipped with pari-mutuel betting windows.

According to ticket-sales personnel at Churchill Downs, those interested in applying for reserved seats for next year will most likely wind up in the cheapest seats if any are available at all.

Infield bleacher seats for both the Kentucky Oaks held the day before the Derby and the Derby itself are sold as a package for $78 to $90, and first-floor grandstand tickets are $60 for the Derby only.

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