The Louisville Cardinal

A student’s guide to surviving Derby season

By Olivia Krauth–

In case you haven’t noticed, the Kentucky Derby is a huge deal, both in the area and in the horse-racing world. Because Churchill Downs is in U of L’s backyard, students who stick around after finals have the option to witness the races firsthand.

Whether attending is a yearly tradition or just something you want to cross off your bucket list, The Cardinal compiled a list of tips to help you make the most out of your time at the track during Oaks and Derby.

-Know where you are going. Churchill Downs is a large place, and there are plenty of spots you won’t have access to. Make sure you know where you are going or at least be with someone who does know.

-Figure out your ride in advance. Parking is tight and expensive, and traffic will probably be bad. Uber prices will probably surge, as well. Avoid issues by knowing how you’re getting to and from the track before you leave the house.

-Bring cash. If you are parking nearby, you may have to park in someone’s yard. These people probably don’t accept credit cards, so stop by the ATM beforehand.

-Charge your phone. Finding your friends that drifted from the group is a lot easier with a charged phone. Consider bringing a portable charger if you have one.

-Check the weather. For your health and comfort, check the weather beforehand and dress accordingly. If it’s cold, bring a jacket. If it’s raining, bring a rain jacket or poncho – Churchill Downs does not allow umbrellas. If it’s a nice day, you don’t need to worry about this one.

-Dress the part. Both Oaks and Derby are known for the fashion traditions: lots of colors and big hats. It’s a tradition to wear pink on Oaks Day, and one veteran recommends only wearing pink to Oaks and not to Derby. Wear comfortable shoes or bring a pair of flats or sandals. Wear a Derby hat or fascinator if you want, but it isn’t required, especially in the infield, where most students are.

-Wear sunscreen and drink water. You will most likely be in the sun all day. Save yourself from burning and potentially awkward tan lines by wearing sunscreen. Stay hydrated by drinking water.

-Eat before. Most students are balling on a budget, and food at the track can be expensive like at any arena or stadium. Avoid buying more than you have to by eating before you get there.

-Watch the alcohol. I don’t care if you drink or not, but if you do, do it safely. The infield has long been known as party central, but don’t let the party distract you from being safe. If you’re of age, veterans recommend trying one of the Oaks and Derby go-to drinks, a lilly or a mint julep.

Photo by Bryce Mansfield / The Louisville Cardinal