Archive for May, 2022

Derby Day is this coming Saturday, and I won’t be there. In fact, the way it looks, I won’t be attending any more Derbies.

Churchill Downs has priced the average person out of the event. Now, the Derby itself is still a fantastic sporting event and will be for as long as it continues to be held; it’s just that tickets have become prohibitively expensive.

I used to buy individual tickets outside the Downs and usually paid about $100 to $150 for reserved seats in the first-floor clubhouse. If I was going with other people, I’d sometimes buy two or more individual tickets, in different sections, and hope we could find some seats together in one of the areas where the tickets were located.

Once several years ago I bought five tickets for a total of $1,350. Only two of those tickets were a pair, but the people whose box the seats were in (there are six seats to a box) were kind enough to let our group use their box as our headquarters, of sorts. There’s a lot of moving around on Derby Day, so the boxes are often empty or in use by just one or two people for extended periods. It worked out well that day for me, Patty, Brooks, Charlie and a friend of Charlie’s.

The days of wheeling and dealing on tickets came to an end, for the most part, when the Downs, like many other sporting and event venues, went to electronic tickets a couple of years ago.

At the same time, the Downs made Ticketmaster its official ticketing resale agent. I say resale because all reserved seats are sold out well in advance, and the reserved seats that are available are those that people, or companies, have purchased but turn back in for resale.

So, I want to show you how the price of tickets as skyrocketed. Here’s the Churchill Downs chart of reserved seating sections.

All 100-level seats are on the first-floor, which is track level. Unlike at a basketball game, you don’t really want to be seated low at the racetrack because the only time you can get a good look at the horses is when they come by you. The 200-level seats aren’t much better. In fact, they are often worse, because you are wedged in between the first level and the third level, and the view is terrible. (I sat there once and hated it.)

The best vantage point, by far, is the third floor, which is elevated enough that you can follow the horses all the way around the track with the naked eye.

I’ve watched the race from the third floor about three times, and it’s great. But those tickets got too pricey for me years ago, and so the last few times I’ve gone, I’ve angled for first-floor seats. The advantage of the first floor is that there’s plenty of room to move around, and although you only see the horses come by you once, you can follow the races very clearly on a huge video board in the infield.

With that seating primer, here’s a sampling of prices.

As of this afternoon, 26 tickets were available in Section 112, in the first turn, for $750 each — and up — plus a service fee of $150 or more. So, for about $900, you could sit in 112 and see the Derby horses flash by you once.

In Section 117, which are low but on the finish line, 14 tickets were available, starting at $1,600, plus service charge.

Moving up to the third floor, four tickets were available in Section 320, which offers a spectacular view of the track, for $3,550 each, plus a hefty service charge.

Two tickets remained in Section 321 for $1,796 each, plus service charge.

A dozen tickets were available in Section 325 for $1,000 or more, plus service charge.

For perspective, here are a couple of photos. This photo shows the first floor and the third floor. (There is no second floor in this particular part of the stands.) You can imagine how much better the view is from the third floor than the first.

But if you want a better idea of what the view is like from the first floor, here’s a photo from Section 115. It doesn’t look too bad here, but imagine all those seats filled to capacity, and everyone standing on tiptoes or on those folding chairs, craning their necks for a view of the horses.


Jacking up ticket prices to an irrational level is just one way Churchill Downs has ruined the Derby for the average person. Another way is that for decades the Derby was the eighth race on the card, with post time about 4:30 Louisville time.

Over the years, because of nothing but greed, the Downs has increased the number of races on Derby Day to 14. (The more races there are, the more betting there is, with the track getting more money.) Post time for Race 1 is 10:30 a.m. Post time for the Derby — Race 12 — is 6:57 p.m., and post time for Race 14 is about 8:30.

By the Derby race, many people in the crowd are drunk, hungry and out of betting money. And even if you leave the track right after the Derby, it takes about an hour and a half to get out of the vicinity of the track and get home or to a restaurant. So, you’re talking about eating dinner at 9 or later. (The Downs now includes food and drink with the price of all reserved seats, but I wouldn’t expect the quality to be very good with the “all-inclusive” feature.)

In the process of protracting the day, the Downs has done a disservice to many Louisville restaurant owners because many people straggle out of the track and head home exhausted instead of going to a local restaurant.


Despite all the negatives, the Derby will continue to attract crowds of 125,000 to 150,000 because there are enough people with enough money who want to be there for “the most exciting two minutes in sports” and will spend the money and put up with the hassle at least once, just to say they’ve done it.

But for me, nah. I’ve been to well over 20 Derbies since starting to go regularly in 1971, and I get tired and irritated just thinking about fighting that crowd and the cost. We almost went last year. I was haggling for days online with a guy who was offering two third-floor seats for something like $800 each. I offered $600 or $650, but he wouldn’t come down, so we went to the condo of some friends and watched on TV, bet online and had a great time.

That showed me I no longer needed to be there in person. It’s been a great run, but I’m yielding the floor, and the turf, to younger people with more energy and more money.


Now that I’ve vented, here are the Derby horses, listed by post position, with trainers, jockeys and “morning line” odds, meaning what the Chruchill Downs handicapper projects the odds to be.

1. Mo Donegal, Todd Pletcher, Irad Ortiz Jr., 10-1

2. Happy Jack, Doug O’Neill, Rafael Bejarano, 30-1

3. Epicenter, Steve Asmussen, Joel Rosario, 7-2

4. Summer is Tomorrow, Bhupat Seemar, Mickael Barzalona, 30-1

5. Smile Happy, Kenny McPeek, Corey Lanerie, 20-1

6. Messier, Tim Yakteen, John Velazquez, 8-1

7. Crown Pride, Koichi Shintani, Christophe Lemaire, 20-1

8. Charge It, Todd Pletcher, Luis Saez, 20-1

9. Tiz the Bomb, Kenny McPeek, Brian Hernandez Jr., 30-1

10. Zandon, Chad Brown, Flavien Prat, 3-1

11. Pioneer of Medina, Todd Pletcher, Joe Bravo, 30-1

12. Taiba, Tim Yakteen, Mike Smith, 12-1

13. Simplification, Antonio Sano, Jose Ortiz, 20-1

14. Barber Road, John Ortiz, Reylu Gutierrez, 30-1

15. White Abarrio, Saffie Joseph Jr., Tyler Gaffalione, 10-1

16. Cyberknife, Brad Cox, Florent Geroux, 20-1

17. Classic Causeway, Brian Lynch, Julien Leparoux, 30-1

18. Tawny Port, Brad Cox, Ricardo Santana Jr., 30-1

19. Zozos, Brad Cox, Manny Franco, 20-1

20. Ethereal Road, D. Wayne Lukas, Luis Contreras, 30-1


And, to wrap up this extra-long post, the winner, JimmyCsays says is…


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