Tips for visiting Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky

The Kentucky Derby is happening this weekend at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. If you choose to bring your family to this storied racing venue, here are some tips to keep in mind:

Consider visiting on dates other than Derby Day. There will be more than 150,000 people at Churchill Downs the first Saturday of May, but there is live racing at the Churchill Downs spring meet each weekend from late April through July 4. While nothing can match the excitement of being there for the Kentucky Derby, you and your family will have a more relaxed day, and get more of an introduction to the place, by checking it out at another time.

Plan to move around the track. A visit to a horse race is not the same as other sporting events, where you enter the arena, take your seat and stay for the entire event. Be sure to move around Churchill Downs to view what’s happening all around the venue. The paddock area out front is where you will be able to get closest to the horses before each race. Watch a race or two from the grandstands, of course. And it’s a different experience to watch a race inside Churchill, where the last-minute gamblers walk up to the window and place their bets seconds before the race starts, turning with their tickets to watch the race on TV.

Buy a racing form. You can pick up racing forms at many convenience stores around Louisville for $5 or $6. They may even be available at your hotel. A racing form can be fun reading during your time at the track – you will get the back-story on the horses that you won’t learn at the track.

Learn what the different races mean. While the Kentucky Derby is the premiere horse race in the U.S., 10 or so races are run each racing day at Churchill Downs. They will each have different rules as far as which horses can be entered. Brush up on the different races with your family before coming to the track. It’s interesting to know which races deal with horses who have never won before, and which races require their owners to put the horse up for sale just to enter.

Place a bet or two. Even if you’re not a gambler, place a bet during your visit to Churchill Downs. It’s a whole new experience to cheer on your horse with a potentially winning ticket in your hand. So give everyone in the family $2 (the minimum bet) and the chance to pick a winner. Study the racing form and make an educated guess. Bet the longshots. Or have each person pick their favorite horse name of the day and bet on that one.

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  2. I’m going tomorrow! I can’t wait as it will be my first trip to Churchill Downs! Unfortunately it is supposed to rain – but we have ponchos and won’t melt! Looking forward to the mint Juleps and placing a few bets!

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