There are many vantages to watch a thoroughbred horse race and I’m often asked about which one is my favorite. My first response is “from the back of a horse crossing the finish line first”, but I do often struggle to come up with a single location due to the many facets and fluidity that occurs before, during and after a race.
Fortunately, Derby Experiences provides fans the opportunity to choose a location. The location you select will often determine your unique encounter with the event that may imprint your memory for a lifetime as it has for many who make an annual return to My Old Kentucky Home.
Yellow Clubhouse ticket packages are located in Section 111, the first floor of the Clubhouse with spectacular views of the iconic Twin Spires. An NBC Sports television platform is also located nearby so as to capture the well known “hero shot” Churchill Downs in its entire splendor during the broadcast.
Yellow Clubhouse ticket packages might resemble a fashionable tailgate party – in open air and easy exchanges of conversations among other race fans from across the country in adjacent box seats. The Citation Lounge is in close proximity to the seats and affords some creature comforts of air-conditioning/heat, a buffet and private cash bar, as well as betting terminals and tv screens so you don’t miss a minute of racing.
Most unique to this section will be your experience of the “walk-over.” This is a span of time before a race that is filled with energy and optimism. The animals and their human connections parade over from the barns to the paddock in single file ceremoniously – all contemplating the possibility of victory.
The horses know it’s game day too, and it’s both exhilarating and fascinating to observe their behavior. Like people, each horse may handle the experience a little differently. Some will be “on their toes” – almost prancing in place as they are trying to contain their excitement. Others appear highly focused, heads down, pulling their handlers along with them as if ready to engage in a battle.
It’s almost impossible not to get immersed in the experience as the horses pass in front of you at eye level. You can see the groom’s expressions and the trainer’s focus. You can observe the size, power and muscle definition of the thoroughbred. Often owners will join in on the walk-over too. Many have a look that combines both awe and disbelief that they could be standing in the winner’s circle in just 30 minutes.
While you may have previously handicapped a race by picking your favorite name or number, the walk-over will convert you. This time you will choose “your Derby horse” based on your own special experience and observation. Despite any odds or naysayers, once you have chosen your horse, your loyalty won’t be deterred when betting and/or cheering!
During the race, the horses run right at you and you can witness jockeys maneuvering their horses into position for the first turn. Typically the horses are fresh and pulling hard at the reins – and jockeys are doing their best to encourage their mounts to conserve their energy and relax.
Even when the horses leave your view, there are plenty of tv monitors and the highly anticipated new video board will be in place so you won’t miss any action in the stretch. Once the horses cross the finish line, the winning jockey gallops by you jubilantly and you can watch the mounted on-track interview right in front of you.
In sharp contrast to the “walk-over,” you'll be able to take another moment to witness the horses return to the barns. Again a myriad of emotions for both man and beast are present. Some are dismayed, others are deliberating an alibi and a lucky few will be celebratory on what always appears to be a longer walk home.