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Thurby is the new Oaks.

Locals say it’s what Oaks used to be, before the world caught on that the Friday before Derby was one of the greatest days to go to the track. After this discovery, what was once “Louisville’s Day at the Track” became awash with outsiders. Out-of-towners, with their tour buses and overpriced tickets, stampeded our track and took over our holiday on Friday.

No worries–we just moved our party back a day, to the Thursday before Derby, now affectionately known as “Thurby.” Louisvillians have made this day their own, with lighter crowds and a perfectly primed Churchill Downs ready for the taking.

Thurby: A Perfect Paddock

The Paddock is perfection at Thurby. You can actually walk through the area and see a horse.

If you have not had the pleasure of attending a Thurby, might we offer you seven solid reasons why you should go? In no particular order, they include:

1. It’s Louisville’s day at the track.

Remember when you’d go to Oaks, and you’d see every single person you knew, plus their families and even their grandparents? Everyone had a section that they gravitated toward, where they had lifelong seats. Remember when you knew that if you wanted to see your friends from college, you would go to this section? See your friends from high school, go to this section and on and on. That’s what Thurby is now shaping up to be.

Thurby: Seating

Back to the old neighborhood seats, where everybody knew your name

2. It has all the trappings of Derby with no fuss.

You would think you were going to Derby when you go to Thurby. Everyone is in their best finery, wearing dresses, suits, hats and fascinators. Mint juleps and lilies are flowing. Horses are all there. But here’s the twist: THERE ARE NO LINES. There is no crushing mass of humanity. Best of all, everything is immaculate. It feels like being first in line to go to Disney World.

Thurby: Concessions

Concessions are ready and waiting for you, with no sign of a crowd.

3. You get a lot of bang for your buck.

General admission to the Paddock is $15. Third-floor clubhouse box seats are only $30. And it’s really only $30. It’s not like when they list the Derby tickets at $100 and you really end up paying $1,000 a ticket. Plus, you feel like you’re having a private tour of Churchill Downs before the Derby. With no crowds and the track in prime condition, you get to experience all of the wonderful amenities without all the crowds and craziness.

Thurby: Up close and personal

You cannot get this close to a horse, much less SEE a horse, on Oaks and Derby days.

4. The cocktails, entertainment and food are all top-notch.

There’s a band! There are premade drinks and punches! There’s awesome food at the concession stand! And you’re not standing in line for an hour to get a $9 beer in a can.

Thurby: Huge vats of margaritas and Bloody Mary's all made with top shelf Brown-Forman products.

Huge vats of margaritas and Bloody Marys all made with top-shelf Brown-Forman products

5. It’s a test run for Oaks or Derby (or both!).

Want to see if that fascinator is going to give you a headache? Can your shoes make it all day? Is your dress too short? Consider Thurby a test run for so many operational issues. It’s like having all the prep work done for Derby, so that the little things, like a raging blister or a wonky hat don’t ruin your day.

Thurby: Going to hell signs

Guess what? You’ll miss my favorite people outside the track on Thurby. They don’t get there until Friday.

6. It is a great girls’ day or boys’ day out.

Thurby is a great excuse for a girls’ day out or even a boys’ day. We’ve even celebrated birthdays at Thurby. If you need a reason to get a bunch of friends together, this is a good one.


Girls’ day out!

7. It doesn’t have to be a marathon.

Because it’s on a regular workday (well, not really here in Louisville), you can go at lunchtime, stay for a few hours and be home for dinner. It’s a little like a secret rendezvous. Because the tickets are so cheap and nothing is a hassle, you can just do a drop in and not commit to an entire day of marathon tracking.


Sold yet? Here’s how to get tickets and where to learn even more about Thurby: And if you see yours truly (because I will definitely be there), be sure to say hello! 

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