For many, the Kentucky Derby is an event that is at the top of the bucket-list. However, for Louisvillians it is the annual holiday that is Christmas, Thanksgiving, St. Patrick's Day, and the 4th of July all wrapped into one. Follow these tips to get the derby experience that is unforgettable.
1. Determine your crowd
The Derby is one of the most unique sporting events to attend because it gives spectators the chance to experience two entirely different environments at one venue. There is the seating in the stands of Churchill Downs, where you might see some heavy tickets being cashed and celebrities on the prowl, and then there is the infield. The infield is for the partying crowd. Live bands, drink stands and rowdy people make for the perfect day of people-watching and gambling. The infield is home to some of the craziest things you will see at a sporting event. Here is proof:
2. The Mint Juleps are stronger than you expect
A mint julep is not the minty-drink that first-timers expect when they take their first gulp of Kentucky's finest. It is a drink that is essentially straight bourbon, and for people who aren't used to drinking strong liquor should beware.
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3. Pronounce "Louisville" correctly
Pronouncing Louisville the correct way is the best way to impress the locals. It's not "Louie-ville" or "Lewis- ville" it's "Loo-a-vull." It sounds weird coming off the tongue at first, but it's an easy adjustment to make.
4. Try the Bourbon you have never seen before
If Kentucky isn't most famous for horses, then it's most famous for bourbon. Whether it's at the races or after, taste some of the bottles that you have never seen previous to your Louisville experience. Louisville is home to the Urban Bourbon Trail, where tourists can take a tasting tour and learn the history of Kentucky's drink.
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5. No I.D. = M.I.P.
They don't play games when it comes to underage drinking in the infield of the derby. If you don't look like you're 21 there's a good chance that undercover cops will ask to see your I.D. Drinking publicly in the infield will result in an Minor in Possession quickly.
6. Only bring as much money as you are prepared to lose
No one said betting on horses was easy. It's a very competitive sport with a lot of different possible outcomes. Beginners luck may take it's inevitable part of someone's early wagering career, but too much confidence will result in the loss of everything you brought in your wallet.
Cash is very important at derby, so bring as much as you think you will need for food and wagering.
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7. Learn to read a racing form
A racing form is your best friend when it comes to betting on the ponies. However, if you're a newcomer at the derby it may be pretty confusing to read. Past performances are crucial to deciding who you think is going to make you some cash. Here is a video to teach you how to read the language of horse racing:
8. Learn the different types of bets
Trifectas, exactas, superfectas, win, place, show, boxes, wheels. All of these terms are going to be thrown around when at the betting window in Churchill Downs. Knowing what each term means and how to properly use each term is crucial to placing a bet. Here are all of the terms and their meanings.
9. Don't take betting advice from the know-it-all gambler
Just because the guy is wearing Versace sunglasses doesn't mean he has any idea what he's talking about when it comes to horse racing. Sure, "track rats" spend a lot more time at the track than you, but they spend a lot more time losing. You both are reading the same racing form.
As a true Louisvillian this is where I shamelessly throw in my pick to win Kentucky Derby 142, Nyquist.
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10. Prepare for a day without phone service
The crowd at the derby is going to make cell phone service a golden ticket. Obviously you will be allowed to take as many pictures as you please, but you won't be posting them anywhere until after you leave the track.
11. It's a marathon not a sprint
This is the most important advice anyone can give to a first-timer at derby. It's an all-day event that will take a whole lot out of you. It's a ton of walking and for many, drinking. If you drink too much too early you're going to find yourself struggling to make it all the way to the big race. Dehydration is inevitable on a hot and sunny derby day.
12. Win or lose you'll want to come back next year
Derby is one of the most unique events in sports, and the spectacle is enough to make anyone want to come back. Win or lose at the betting window, you're going to have an awesome day. The crowd is rowdy and the local Louisvillians are very nice.
Before and after:
For people visiting Louisville for the first time, there's a little bit of everything. Louisville is rich in food, liquor, sports and history. Derby is a festival and not just a horse race. A boat race, a marathon, free concerts and Thunder Over Louisville (The largest fireworks show in the U.S.) all go along with celebrating a two-minute horse race in Kentucky. It's a bigger deal than you would expect.
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Food lovers will be in heaven as Louisville was rated the number-one food city in the United States by National Geographic. The marquee of the town is the Kentucky Hot Brown, served at the Brown hotel. Check it out here. Other famous restaurants include Proof on Main, Mayan Cafe and the English Grille. Southern Living ranked the top 12 here.
For those looking to party, the Barnstable Brown derby-eve party is one of the most recognized in the world. Finding a way into the party is a tough ticket because many celebrities are always in attendance. Checking the guest list to this party will tell you who to keep an eye out for on derby day. The guest list can be found here. A quick preview includes quarterbacks Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers as well as supermodel Kate Upton.
Baseball fans need to check out the Louisville Slugger Museum. Louisville Slugger is the king of baseball equipment for the MLB. In the museum they have hundreds of baseball artifacts as well as a factory where you can have your own bat made.
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