Last weekend the L, along with the guys from Knifefight, decided to drive 12 hours down to Louisville for the most exciting two minutes in sports, the 136th running of the Kentucky Derby. It’s a parade of southern hospitality, overt class differentiation, heavy drinking and, of course, excessive gambling. Hunter and Steadman’s vision is not far off. However, we we were warmly welcomed into the derby’s infield mud pit with 100,000 drunken revelers. (The same could not be said about Pennsylvania, a state so red it’ll come running out after you into the parking lot for not turning off the bathroom light. Recession Rage?) At Churchill Downs, the rain was the story on and off the track. The wet track gave the Irish mudder, Paddy O’Prado, an advantage; he came in third, while local-favorite jockey Calvin Borel rode the risky inside rail on 18-to-1-odds Super Saver, grabbing the victory. Shockingly, three in our group hit the boxed trifecta, each winning $1200 on a $1 bet. So our budget for mint juleps and derby pie became essentially unlimited.
Entrance to the massive infield is $40, but we borrowed season passes from locals to get in free. Rich respectable locals with impeccable suits and giant hats will pay about $500 for seats in the bleachers. If you want cover from the rain or sun, expect to pay much more. The real power brokers have elevated suites right at the finish line. These high rollers, business titans, and celebrities—like Jon Lovitz and Justin Timberlake—will pay about $9,000 for the day.
Kentucky knows how to party. The drizzle turned the infield into Woodstock ’94 meets the Super Bowl. Most people show up to the track at 11am, already drunk. Every few minutes a mud-covered dapper dan would race across a row of 25 toilets as drunkards tossed bottles and clothes in his path and the National Guard looked the other way. The lack of police presence is shocking to a New Yorker—we live in a police state compared to Louisville.
Post-race, gamblers in massive hats stumble, drink in hand, out into the streets trying to get their pictures taken with cops on horseback, who nudge a boot in their back instead of arresting them. All bets are off during Derby time, which means every house is a potential party spot, every bar charges $10 to get in and thousands of entrepreneurs become temporary taxi drivers. Using our radar we found Cahoots, the only hipster dive bar on Barnstown road. Grab a $3 20oz can of PBR and behold Coke, the guy in the track suit yelling “coke” to literally everyone who walks in the door.