Return of Coolers To Infield Included in Hospitality, Security Polices for 135th Kentucky Derby, Oaks

Apr 16, 2009 John Asher

For the first time since 2001, fans who enjoy Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks Days in the infield at historic Churchill Downs will be allowed to bring coolers into the track for the 2009 renewals of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands and the Kentucky Oaks.  

    Coolers will be allowed in the Churchill Downs infield only on Kentucky Oaks Day, May 1, and Kentucky Derby Day, May 2.  Patrons may carry coolers into the track only through Gates 1 and 3, the traditional “infield gates,” and all coolers will be subject to search.  Alcoholic beverages and glass containers of any kind will not be allowed in those coolers.  Permitted contents include ice, non-alcoholic beverages in non-glass containers, and food packaged in clear plastic containers or bags.  The maximum size of those clear containers and plastic bags remains at 18” x 18”.

    Coolers were banned from Churchill Downs on the track’s biggest days when hospitality and security policies were thoroughly reviewed and revised following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and new policies were implemented for the 2002 Kentucky Derby and Oaks.  There have been tweaks to those policies since, but the lifting of the Kentucky Derby Weekend cooler ban is the most significant change since the new policies were established.

Churchill Downs works each year with nearly 40 law enforcement and government agencies to establish and enforce Kentucky Derby and Oaks hospitality and security policies and procedures.  The ban on coolers in the infield was lifted for 2009 with the approval of the track’s law enforcement partners, but most of the hospitality and security procedures established in 2002 remain in place for Derby and Oaks 135.

One other significant change for Infield patrons on Derby and Oaks Days is directly connected to the return of coolers: there will be no “General Store” located in the infield this year.  That store had provided racing fans with the opportunity to purchase Styrofoam coolers, ice, bread and sandwich items, and other infield necessities.  With the return of coolers, demand for those items for on-site purchase in an infield store would have been greatly reduced.

Churchill Downs will again station guest service and hospitality representatives at locations throughout the track to allow for quick response to questions or concerns posed by patrons on Kentucky Derby and Oaks Days.

“Our fans on Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks Days quickly embraced significant changes in our hospitality and security policies in 2002.Their enthusiasm and patience – along with the incredible efforts of our law enforcement partners and government agencies that work with us each year – made these policies effective and allowed the Kentucky Derby and Oaks to continue to grow,” said Kevin Flanery, senior vice president of Churchill Downs Incorporated.  “We know that many will welcome the reintroduction of coolers and a return to a more ‘traditional’ infield experience.  The price of a general admission ticket to join the infield celebration of the Kentucky Derby and Oaks remains one of the most affordable ways to participate in any major American sports event. We trust that the reintroduction of coolers will convince even more families, college students and other fans within easy driving distance of Churchill Downs to spend a day in the infield on Kentucky Derby and Oaks Days.”

Infield admission to Churchill Downs on Kentucky Oaks Day is $25, and $40 on Derby Day.

Last year’s 134th renewal of the Kentucky Derby was witnessed by a crowd of
157,770, which was the second largest attendance figure in the history of the race.  Despite rainy weather, the 2009 Kentucky Oaks drew a crowd of 100,046.  

All patrons at Churchill Downs are subject to scans by magnetic wands before their entry to the track on those days.  

Items that may not be carried-in to Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks Days include:

  • Alcoholic beverages of any kind;
  • Glass bottles or containers;
  • Grills;
  •  Thermoses;
  •  Backpacks;
  • Luggage (includes briefcases);
  • Duffel bags;
  •  Wagons;
  • Umbrellas;
  •  Weapons, including knives.

Along with the infield-bound coolers, items permitted for carry-in to Churchill
Downs on Oaks and Derby Days include:

  • Food items in clear plastic bags (maximum size 18”x 18” – no trash bags) – LIMIT TWO (2) PER PERSON;
  •  “Box” lunches if packaged in clear plastic bags or plastic containers  (maximum size 18” x 18” – no trash bags) – LIMIT TWO (2) PER PERSON;
  • Sunscreen (non-glass containers only);
  • Cellular telephones, cameras, and camcorders (patrons may be required to turn electronic items ‘on’ before entry is allowed);
  • Small personal music systems, radios and televisions – no “boom boxes”;
  • Binoculars;
  • Purses and baby bags (all subject to search);
  •  Strollers (only if carrying a child – no other items allowed);
  • Seat cushions (no backs);
  • Chairs (Gate 3 only);
  • Blankets (Gates 1 & 3 for infield use only);
  • Tarpaulins (Gates 1 & 3 for infield use only)
  • Ticket Info

    Sign up for race updates and more


Thank You To Our Sponsors


Missed something? Catch up on past Churchill Downs news