Sunday, April 8, 2001
127th KENTUCKY DERBY
When: May 5 at Churchill Downs, Louisville, Ky.
Getting There: United offers nonstop flights from Dulles to Louisville from $185 round trip; other carriers provide connecting service for about $120. Seats are selling fast, so you might have to be very flexible. Other options: Fly to Cincinnati and drive an hour, or road-trip more than 600 miles southwest from D.C.
Admission: Reserved seating is sold out, but written requests for 2002 will be accepted the day after the derby until Sept. 1. You can also order tickets through a ticket agent (see below).
Unlimited general admission ($40) is available on race day, allowing access to the paddock area and the infield (expect a rowdy crowd). Gates open at 8 a.m.
Where to Stay: Louisville offers a veritable stable of lodging choices, from chains to bed-and-breakfasts -- but most hotels require three-night stays and B&Bs are now wait-list only. Thrifty Travel Dutchman (3357 Fern Valley Rd., 502-968-8124) is offering a double room Thursday-Sunday for $550, while singles at the Super 8 (4800 Preston Hwy., 502-968-0088) are going for $423 for three nights with breakfast. Check derby and tourism offices (see below) for a list of accommodations. Atlas Cruises & Tours (800-942-3301,www.atlastravel.com) has a four-day package for $1,240 per person (tickets and air extra). All were available at press time.
Inside Track: To fit in with the horsey set, dress dapper -- think Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan. And ladies, don't forget your topper, which must match your outfit. Infielders, however, can dress more like "Let's Make a Deal" contestants (i.e., hats adorned with plastic horses) . . . Memorize "My Old Kentucky Home," since the Army band only provides the music . . . Visit the Kentucky Derby Museum (704 Central Ave., 502-637-7097; $7, closed on race day), which has a miniature horse out back.
Cocktail of Choice: Mint Julep (sugar syrup, Early Times Bourbon, mint, crushed ice), preferably in a sterling silver tumbler, though the track serves its version in a commemorative glass.
Info: Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau: 888-LOUISVILLE, www.louisville-visitors.com; Churchill Downs, 502-636-4400, www.kyderby.com.
126th PREAKNESS STAKES
When: May 19at Pimlico Race Course, Baltimore.
Getting There: Take I-95 north to 695 west (Baltimore Beltway), then Exit 18 east to Lochearn (Liberty Road). Go left on Northern Parkway, right on Park Heights Avenue and another left on Hayward Avenue. Drive time: one hour.
Admission: You can reserve $55 concourse seats (outside, undercover) by phone or mail, though spots are limited. You'll have better luck in the infield ($30 advance, $35 on race day), the clubhouse ($18) or the grandstand ($15, standing-room only).
Inside Track: Get in the spirit with a week's worth of festivities May 11-19, including a crab derby and a parade . . . After the horses cross the finish line, look skyward at the Old Clubhouse cupola to watch an official paint the colors of the winner's silks onto a horse-shaped weather vane.
Cocktail of Choice: Black-Eyed Susan (Grand Marnier, white Creme de Menthe and brandy).
Info: Preakness, 877-206-8042, www.marylandracing.com.
133rd BELMONT STAKES
When: June 9 at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y.
Getting There: By car, take I-95 north to the Staten Island Expressway, then Verrazano Bridge to Belt Parkway east, to Cross Island Parkway north to Exit 26-D (about 245 miles). Other options: Fly into JFK or LaGuardia, about 12 miles from the track; or take the Long Island Rail Road from New York's Penn Station.
Admission: You can't get the $5-$10 reserved clubhouse and grandstand seats (mail-in requests for the lottery-selected seats were due March 31), but general admission tickets for $2 (grandstand) or $4 (clubhouse) can be bought on race day.
Where to Stay: Many of the big names in racing tuck down at the Garden City Hotel (45 Seventh St., Garden City, 800-547-0400); rates for a double room over the nightclub (expect the disco beat till 2 a.m.) are $209. You can also stay in Manhattan and take the train to the races, or book a room at an airport hotel.
Inside Track: Grab the bubbly, find a spot by the paddock and toast the horses as they get saddled up for the big race . . . Belt out "New York, New York," sung just before the gun goes off.
Cocktail of Choice: The White Carnation has been replaced by the Belmont Breeze, a whiskey punch.
Info: Long Island Convention and Visitors Bureau, 800-441-4601, www.licvb.com; Belmont Park, 718-641-4700, www.nyra.com. -- Andrea Sachs