This is, more or less, your only really useful etiquette guide to the Kentucky Derby. However you experience the race, some mingling/behavior/getting along tips are in order for all. Apply at will, sort of like sunscreen.


— Remember that you are in Kentucky. Try to work on the lyrics to “My Old Kentucky Home” before you get there. TV networks love this stuff. Heck, Kentuckians love this stuff. Do your part.


— Stumped for conversation starters, you can always compliment a woman on her hat. If she is not wearing a hat, she is at the wrong horse race.


— Similarly stumped with men, ask if he needs another drink. Men at the Derby always need another drink.


— Do not speak ill of any horse while at the Downs. Even the notoriously slow ones command more respect here than a lot of people and all politicians.


— Remember to dress for the Derby party you wish to be invited to next year. Even if you have no expectation of ever rising above the $40 infield general admission party, dress as if you do.


— No one cares if you have to pee. No need to announce it loudly, not even if you’re in the infield. Just go.


— Do not try to touch a horse. Do not try to pick a rose from the landmark rosebushes. Do not insult the jockey in any language. (Horses have bodyguards; Churchill has bouncers; jockeys have whips.) — Take heart that it’s a day when all of America envies you. And take aspirin.

Sing it loud and correctly. For the record, Stephen Foster’s “My Old Kentucky Home” does not go like this: Mmmm, mmm, mmmm, My Old Kentucky Home, la da, la da de, la day ... mmmm.


Here are the words:

The sun shines bright in my old Kentucky home, ’Tis summer, the people are gay; The corn-top’s ripe and the meadow’s in the bloom While the birds make music all the day.
The young folks roll on the little cabin floor All merry, all happy and bright; By ’n’ by hard times comes a-knocking at the door Then my old
Kentucky home, good-night!
Weep no more my lady. Oh!
Weep no more today!
We will sing one song for my old Kentucky home For my old Kentucky home, far away.

WHAT TO WEAR General admission — There is no specific dress code for guests with general admission tickets.


Reserved seating areas — Most reserved seating areas prefer business casual dress: blazers, vests, shirts with collars, sweaters, dresses, pantsuits and slacks are appropriate.


— Jackets are preferred in the Aristides and Stakes rooms, Trophy Suites, Marquee Village, Trackside Village and the Turf Club.


— Golf shorts, dress shorts, dress jeans and capris are allowed in Millionaires Row, Twin Spires Gold Room and the Matt Winn Dining Room.

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