Open seating.

Sections 126, 127 and 128 in the first-floor grandstand (roughly located across the track from the 3/16 pole) will be first-come, first-served for the general admission crowd. Cost is $15 on Breedersʼ Cup Friday, Nov. 4, and $25 on Breedersʼ Cup Saturday, Nov. 5. It might be your best bet all weekend.

The view from the first turn. This used to be the hidden gem for general-admission fans on Derby Day. They could watch the race from a grassy area, wedged between higher-priced seating sections, that offers a view of the track and the Twin Spires. You can still get to a gravel spot on the edge of the first turn that provides a glimpse of the Twin Spires and the massive grandstand, even if itʼs through a fence. Thereʼs also a handy set of uncrowded betting windows nearby.

Wager here. Thereʼs a littleknown nook at the gateway between the grandstand and clubhouse, under Section 320, with typically uncrowded betting windows. Plus, there are fewer novices trying to bet their horses by name rather than number. The parimutuel clerks here are sometimes shipped in for the big days from tracks in neighboring states — so you might get someone who understands how a player might be working the angles in a trifecta part-wheel or laying out a multiple Pick Six scheme.

An Insider’s Guide to Churchill Downs
Lost and found. A place to meet should you and your friends go astray is at the mammoth Pierre “Peb” Belloq painting on the clubhouseʼs second-floor, in between sections 316 and 317. Itʼs the mural featuring all the jockeys who have won the Kentucky Derby. Itʼs huge, running on for what seems like a furlong and many roads lead to it. If you want to get really specific, plan to meet “at Calvinʼs three fingers” — thatʼd be the portrait in the mural of Calvin Borel signaling the number of Derbies heʼs won.

No waiting. Ladies will find the shortest restroom lines on the main floor or “on the bricks” to the left of U.S. Bank near the first-aid station. Another tip: Churchillʼs cobblestone-style bricks are rough on heeled shoes. If the fashionista in you must wear heels, stow some flats in your purse.


Sitting near a winner. Spend the day near the Breedersʼ Cup winnerʼs circle (the everyday one, not the one in the infield thatʼs used for Derby), get a prime view of the stretch and eavesdrop on horsemen who know the game and like to talk about it. Betting windows arenʼt far away, either.

Autograph hunting? After the race, position yourself near the paddock on the northeast side, behind the photo store, where the jockeys make their way to and from the track. Itʼs a good way to get a glimpse of the colorful silks and the men who ride the horses, and a great way to get an autograph. After Mike Smith rode Giacomo to a stunning upset in Derby 131, he was besieged by fans, friends and media after the race — until he got to this little passageway, where he was practically alone until one fan asked Smith to sign his Derby cap. The jockey, his Derby-winning silks still dirty from the ride, happily obliged.

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