On the first Saturday in May, three-year-old Kentucky Derby contenders will be asked to run further than they ever have in their young careers. The mile and a quarter distance is a true test of both speed and stamina and most often, winners and losers are determined at the top of the stretch. The new construction on the Grandstand now promises fans a spectacular view of that live action like never before.
“It’s where the race truly unfolds! Frontrunners are getting leg weary and fading: closers are trying to navigate through the traffic for their sprint to the wire: the top of stretch is the most telling,” described Darren Rogers, Director of Publicity and Communications for Churchill Downs.
Well-known race announcer, Dave Johnson, created his now signature “And down the stretch they come!” in spontaneous excitement while calling the Derby as evidence of the compelling action that occurs in that last quarter mile.
Many jockeys also tell stories about a phenomenon that occurs in the stretch that is related to a sound tunnel. The experience is unique to the runners in the Kentucky Derby and the jockeys use words like “a whirr” or “buzz” to describe the sound and energy as the horses enter the stretch. The sound is apparently more intense than just a “roar of the crowd” as there are no distinguishable voices, but simply a giant sound wave of cheers and energy. Some jockeys contend that their horse was physically moved sideways by the sound waves.
It’s difficult to say whether the experience affects the horses either positively or negatively, but a few jockeys say it’s ethereal and they emerge at the end of the stretch with sense of astonishment. It’s unlikely that one could see the phenomenon, but with a birds eye view of the entire stretch, one can just imagine racing through a sound tunnel to the finish line!
“I highly recommend this spot on Derby Day! This roof top has been one of those hidden jewels for years and accessible only to certain employees or security personnel for its one-of-a-kind race views," said Rogers. "Not only do fans now get this spot, but they also get to be first. I believe that folks will be clamoring for this area once they get to experience racing from this vantage."