Well, well, well. We’re getting there, Kentucky.
Every day brings another needle in another arm, and every sunrise brings hope that the words “COVID protocols” will one day be a memory.
The occasion of the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday won’t allow for every ounce of pageantry associated with a race that typically attracts more than 150,000 revelers to Churchill Downs in Louisville. However, some of the event’s traditional trappings cast aside last year during the height of the pandemic will resurface on the first Saturday in May in 2021.
Let’s start with this: In addition to what’s expected to be a crowd of at least 45,000 in Louisville, fans will be allowed to celebrate at Keeneland in Lexington as well.
Visitors will have access to more than 1,000 TVs, wagering, food, drink specials and live music. Kind of normal, right?
As proof that we’re not yet all the way there, you’ll have to buy tickets in advance, and face masks are required. Visit Keeneland.com for additional operating procedures on Derby Day.
Wait, there’s more
What you need to know, whether you’re heading to Churchill Downs, staying in Lexington or watching on TV:
IF YOU GO TO THE DOWNS
General admission: $85 (gets you in the infield). Reserved grandstand and bleacher seating are available at higher prices at Ticketmaster.com. Capacity is limited to 40-50 percent of normal.
Gates open: 9:30 a.m.
First post time: 10:30 a.m.
Derby post time: 6:57 p.m.
Weather forecast: Sunny. High of 75. Zero percent chance of precipitation. At Derby post time, look for clear skies and 74 degrees.
Parking: If your ticket includes reserved parking, check the color on your hang tag to find your specific lot. If your ticket does not include reserved parking, you have two options: Park at Cardinal Stadium and walk to Churchill Downs or park in one of the neighborhoods near the track.
What you can bring: Amid a weather forecast calling for all-day sunshine, it’s important to note that visitors are allowed to bring in bottled water — limit of two 24-ounce unopened plastic bottles per person. Each guest is permitted one bag no larger than 12 inches by 6 inches by 12 inches. Be sure yours includes sunscreen. Banned items of note include coolers, backpacks, umbrellas, alcoholic beverages, tents, laptop computers, selfie sticks and animals (except service animals). Visit KentuckyDerby.com to view a complete list of items that are permitted or banned.
The crowd: As a result of COVID-19, we won’t be setting any attendance records this year. The two biggest crowds in Derby history attended recently — 170,513 in 2015 and 167,227 in 2016. At 50 percent capacity, figure on 20,000 to 30,000 fans in reserved seats and an additional 15,000 in the general admission infield — a sizable gathering by pandemic standards.
The national anthem: Tori Kelly
WLEX-18 and NBC: 8 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 2:30-8 p.m.
NBC Sports Network: Noon-2:30 p.m.
Horse Racing Radio Network: The Derby will be broadcast on WLXO-96.1 FM. Pre-race coverage and undercard races available on Sirius 219, XM 201 or at horseracingradio.net.
TVG: Coverage throughout the day
Twitter: Follow our main Herald-Leader accounts: @HeraldLeader and @KentuckySports. Additionally, follow our entire reporting team: John Clay (@johnclayiv), Ben Roberts (@BenRobertsHL), Mark Story (@markcstory), Josh Moore (@JoshMooreHL), Daniel Desrochers (@drdesrochers), Jeremy Chisenhall (@JSChisenhall), Alex Slitz (@AlexSlitzPhoto) and Ryan Hermens (@ryanhermens).
Facebook: Kentucky.com and KentuckySports.com
NBC Sports: Live stream available at nbcsports.com/live
4201 Versailles Road, Lexington
General admission: $5, free for ages 12 and under. Tickets must be purchased in advance and do not include reserved grandstand areas.
Drive-through opens: 7 a.m.
Gates open: 10 a.m.
Grandstand mutuel windows open: 10 a.m.
Activities: Live music, food, drink specials
Information: (859) 254-3412; www.keeneland.com
1200 Red Mile Road, Lexington
Gates open: 9 a.m.
Mutuel windows open: 10 a.m.
Information: (859) 255-0752; RedMileKy.com
All three of these services are similar, so personal taste and comfort level with the various features will probably be the biggest factor when deciding which to use:
▪ TwinSpires is billed as the “official online wagering home of the Kentucky Derby.” You can sign up by visiting Twinspires.com on your computer or searching for TwinSpires in the app store on your smartphone.
▪ Cable television station TVG also has a website and smartphone app that facilitates wagering. Sign up at TVG.com or search for TVG in the app store.
▪ Another good option is Keeneland Select, which is affiliated with the legendary Lexington racetrack. Sign up at Keeneland.com/select or search for Keeneland Select in the app store.