Beginner’s Guide to the Kentucky Derby 2021

Here’s our Beginner’s Guide to the Kentucky Derby, but with consideration to changes and canceled events due to the persistent pandemic in 2021.

The Kentucky Derby is so much more than a horse race. It’s one of the most famed horse races in the world. The event is aptly named “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports,” and besides, it’s step one of the famed Triple Crown in horse racing. Consequently, “The Derby” usually draws an average of 150,000 visitors each year, including celebrities, presidents, and members of royal families. For the official Kentucky Derby website, go to Official Kentucky.

Kentucky Derby 2021 Changes

With the coronavirus pandemic enduring through the spring, the 147th Run for the Roses won’t look the same as it has in years past. But, it will be closer to normal than the 2020 race run in September.

First of all, Churchill Downs limits fan General admission tickets to the infield this year to 15,000 guests versus an average crowd of 60,000 fans. So fewer guests in the Kentucky Derby infield will definitely hold festivities more on the tame side with social distancing and mask-wearing.

The infield in previous years at Churchill Downs

According to Kirby Adams of the Louisville Courier-Journal, “Whether queuing for a bus to take you to the track, your turn in a bathroom stall or exchanging handicapping advice at the betting window — after a couple of mint juleps, everyone seems to become extra chatty and your new best friend on Kentucky Derby Day. But with social distancing measures in place, we’ll need to rethink how to become acquainted with strangers.”

Food, Glorious Food – and Mint Juleps

Food and alcohol options will be very different. The food buffet at Churchill Downs has always been a favorite with race fans who love Southern-style cuisine. Unfortunately, this year, chef David Danielson will be serving individually portioned and plated food from a preset menu. 

All reserved seats will include all-inclusive food, nonalcoholic beverages, and alcoholic beverages. This change is intended to:

  • reduce the amount of time spent in line,
  • eliminate the need for cash transactions for food and beverages
  • provide the opportunity to try a greater variety of food, and
  • observe health and safety recommendations during the continued coronavirus pandemic.
Churchill Downs
Churchill Downs

Some changes may prove to be new traditions. For example, how about the opportunity to wear bejeweled face masks to match those elaborate Kentucky Derby hats!

Interesting facts about “the Derby.”

  1. The first Kentucky Derby race occurred in 1875
  2. The Kentucky Derby traditions are some of the longest-standing racetrack traditions in the U.S.
  3. The Mint Julep is the official drink of the Kentucky Derby. It is an iced drink consisting of bourbon, mint, and sweet syrup. Churchill Downs serves it in a commemorative Kentucky Derby glass.
  4. Women appear in lavish outfits with big, elegant hats.
  5. As the horses are paraded before the grandstands, The University of Louisville marching band plays Stephen Foster’s “My Old Kentucky Home,” which everyone sings along with.
  6. This is usually a 2-week festival. The annual two-week series of events held in Louisville, beginning with Thunder Over Louisville and leading up to the Kentucky Derby.
  7. In 1973, Secretariat became the fastest Derby winner in history with a time of 1:59.40, a record that still stands.
  8. In 1986, 54-year-old Bill Shoemaker became the oldest jockey to win the Derby.
Kentucky Derby
Churchill Downs

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Local CelebrationsBeginner’s Guide to the Kentucky Derby

  • Foxwoods Resort – MAY 1, 10 AM, in the ULTIMATE RACE BOOK. Be one of the first 250 guests to place a wager and receive a FREE T-SHIRT. You can also catch all the Derby action throughout the resort, including Live @ Atrium Bar & Lounge, Centrale Fox Tower, and Spin Bar. Limited seating available in Race Book.
  • Plainridge Park – Wagering and watching the Derby will include an added convenience for our wagering guests; Plainridge Park Casino will offer drive-up and walk-up tellers.
  • Twin River, as a convenience, will have additional betting windows on the third floor. Tiverton racebook will be closed, according to the website.
  • Racebook is open at Mohegan Sun.

Types of Kentucky Derby Bets Available

  • Win – This is a bet for a single horse to win.
  • Place – This is a bet for a single horse to finish first or second.
  • Show – A bet the horse will place in the top three.
  • Across the Board (Win, Place & Show) – This is similar to a show bet, but if your horse wins second or first, the payout is much larger.
  • Exacta – This is a bet for the first and second places – in the exact order.
  • Exacta Box – This is an exacta bet with 3 or more horses. But, the winners can be in any order.
  • Trifecta – This bet is for the top three finishers in a specific order.
  • Trifecta Box – Similar to the trifecta, except the winners can be in any order.
  • Superfecta – The toughest bet with the biggest payout. It chooses the top four finishers in exact order.
  • Superfecta Box – This is the same as a superfecta, except the order of the top four horses picked does not matter.

Ladies and Gentleman, Place Your Bets. You can wager on the Kentucky Derby now, before Saturday. Here are the horses and odds as of Wednesday, April 28th, 2021.

2021 Kentucky Derby Horses, Positions and Odds