Best Place to Sit at the Kentucky Derby

Apr 15, 2019


Alex Gormley

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Long celebrated as one of the best live sporting events of the year, the Kentucky Derby brings over 170,000 fans together from all around the world to celebrate the most prestigious event in horse racing.

Given the sheer amount of people in attendance each year, there’s a plethora of different seating options for fans making the pilgrimage to northern Kentucky. If you’re one of the lucky fans planning on attending in person, finding the best seating type and section for the race can be a bit daunting due to the different types of ticket offerings. Here at SeatGeek we’ve put together a handy guide which will help you figure out which seat will work best for you.

We’ll start out with a quick overview of the three types of tickets available for purchase.

General Admission

One of the more affordable ticketing options for the Derby is a ticket for the general admission areas. Those who purchase general admission tickets can stand by the paddock where the horses make their entrance and are also able to congregate at a designated section on the infield of the track. The infield has a reputation for getting a bit rowdy, with over 80,000 people expected to be in attendance in the infield alone.

If you want to get a good view of the track, you’ll have to get there early as it can be tricky to stake out a spot with a good view. Those who purchase general admission tickets will surely want to bring their own folding chairs and blankets to the race as there are no fixed seating options in the infield general admission area.

Reserved Seating

In addition to the general admission offerings, Churchill Downs has several different types of reserved seating located around the front stretch and first corner of the track. The reserved seats consist of three different levels of seating – 100, 200 and 300 with the 100 level being the closest to the track itself.

The three different types of reserved seating offered are bleachers, stadium seating and box seating. The bleacher seats, as you could guess from their name, are made of long backless benches without individual separate seats. These bleachers are located on the first and second levels of seating in sections 121 through 128 and sections 222 through 225.

Stadium seating is only available in a small section of the track, located on the second level in sections 226 through 228.

Box seats are a bit different from the two previously mentioned ticket types as they are a block of seating which features six folding chairs in a small contained area. Box seats are located in each of the three levels at section 111, 212, 312 and 325.

Kentucky Derby Suites

If you’re looking to watch the race in style, Churchill Downs has a large number of private suites located throughout the front stretch, in the first corner and in the infield itself. The suites are broken down into six different types based on their location: Starting Gate, Finish Line, First Turn, Winner’s Circle, Turf and Jockey Club Suites. The capacities of these suites vary from 18 people per suite all the way up to 400 people per suite. Suites are usually the most expensive tickets available to racer goers due to their improved amenities like access to food, betting windows and private bathrooms.

Where are the Best Places to Sit?

At the Kentucky Derby, the higher up your seats are, the better. Being further removed from the track makes it much easier to see all the action, especially when the horses are on the backstretch, as it can be tricky to follow the action if you are too close to the track. Another thing worth mentioning is that tickets tend to get more expensive the higher up you go, with significant jumps in price when you move up an entire level.

One of the best bang-for-the-buck options is to purchase tickets in the 200s level, which offers a better viewing angle than the first tier of seating without having to break the bank to upgrade to the 300 or suite level. The 200s level has all three of the previously mentioned reserved seating types, so there’s a bit of something for everyone.

What About Track Position?

Another thing that bears consideration is whereabouts on the track do you want to sit. Seats are located along the front stretch and first turn and are designated by the different poles which mark how many miles are left in the race. Seats located right along the finish line tend to be the most expensive, while tickets at the beginning of the front stretch are among the most moderately priced. Where you decide to sit regarding the different positions on the track is mostly a matter of personal preference. If you don’t feel the need to be right on top of the finish line, you can save quite a bit on the price of your ticket by sitting elsewhere.

What About Multi-Day Tickets?

In addition to the “Run for the Roses,” Churchill Downs also has two other days worth of horse races on Thursday and Friday leading up to the Derby. The Thursday races are referred two as the “Thurby” and the Friday races are called the Kentucky Oaks. Multi-day tickets for Friday and Saturday are available to fans who wish to take in as much thoroughbred action as they possibly can.

(Cropped image courtesy of Bill Brine via Flickr. | CC BY 2.0)