The last two races of the horse racing’s annual ‘Triple Crown–the Belmont Stakes and the Preakness—have reserved seat tickets that are fairly easy to come by. Not so with the Kentucky Derby where the reserved tickets for the ‘Run for the Roses’ are always in high demand. This year Churchill Downs has modified its ticket allocation process somewhat and not everyone is happy about the situation.
In previous years Churchill Downs utilized a ‘lottery’ process to distribute reserved seat tickets. Despite this superficial attempt at being egaliitarian most of the tickets ended up the same place they always had. Longtime Kentucky Derby attendees—prominent horse racing personalities, well connected ‘old money’ Louisville families and corporate sponsors—seemed to have little trouble getting the best reserved seat tickets. Additional reserved seat tickets were released online in advance of the race and distributed on a ‘first come, first served’ basis.
This year many of the trappings of randomness and/or fairness have been eliminated and tickets are available for purchase now on the official Kentucky Derby website direct from Churchill Downs. There is a variety of different types of tickets available at a variety of price points. There’s one catch, however, at least when it comes to reserved seating—you have to buy tickets for both Saturday’s Kentucky Derby and Friday’s Kentucky Oaks. The Kentucky Oaks—one of the top races of the year for three year old fillies—has also set attendance records in recent years but you can no longer select one race or the other to attend with reserved seating. You’ve got to by both or take your chances with general admission which still allows you to attend one race or the other.
That’s the best option for tens of thousands of fans that attend annually with general admission seating available throughout the facility. General admission tickets are priced at $50 for Kentucky Derby Saturday, with separate admission necessary for the Friday racing card headlined by the Kentucky Oaks. And don’t forget parking which can also be purchased in advance as well as high priced and unique ‘VIP experience packages’.
For fans that want to secure reserved seating without having to commit to both race days it can best be done with one of the many ticket brokers online and in major metropolitan areas. Another great place to secure tickets is Ebay. In all cases, you can expect to pay well over list price for the admission level you’re looking to purchase. New ‘ticket brokerage’ services like StubHub are also an option as is the less high tech resale market available on Craigslist.
If you’re not able to make it to Louisville on race day, there are plenty of places to watch and wager on the Kentucky Derby. Most horse racing facilities across the country offer simulcast wagering not only on the Derby and the Oaks, but the entire spring and fall race meet at Churchill Downs. You can also bet in one of the many sportsbooks in Nevada or online at an offshore sports book or a ‘legal’ paramutual option like TVG. The race itself will be broadcast on NBC TV in the United States and can get plenty of pre-race coverage on the dedicated horse racing networks TVG and HRTV. The NBC owned ‘NBC Sports’ network will also air preliminary races and feature programming on the Kentucky Derby and the other Triple Crown races.