1) If you can find tix for $100 that offer an actual seat, grab them, but the only seats such as that will be in the new infield "club". A Glorified hospitality tent in the infield.
2) So far, they have not (and have proposed not to) raise the tickets for the infield/general admission and are still $40/each.
3) As already mentioned, infield/general admission tix will only allow you access to the infield and to the paddock areas (including betting windows and the like). The ONLY way to see the track from that point is to go INTO the infield and even then, you'll only see a swish of a tail as the horses pass on the 1st or far turn.
4) The paddock area (still general admission and STILL allows for infield entrance) is (in my opinion) the best place to cheaply go for Derby. It allows for "hobknobbing" with the well to do/nicely dressed without them even knowing you can't go further than seeing the horses and a few nearby vendors/betting windows.
The ONLY reason I do not like it is because there is no way (other than the aforementioned entry to the infield) to see the track/any race. Everything will, however, be available on the various tv's scattered around the paddock.
Here, your wife would fit in quite nicely in a dress & hat.
5) Most prices for grandstand seating start at $300+ but generally run closer to $500-$1000/EACH. Depends on how and where you get the tickets, however. I would be leery of any broker only bc I've seen infield tix and infield club tix going for much higher than they are selling here, so I'd assume they would also make the other tix much higher as well.
6) Places to stay are inarguably the most difficult to garner. Other than what has already been suggested, I would put an ad on Craigslist or in the local paper--The Courier-Journal (www.courier-journal.com
) for lodging. We live(d) near the track (6 blocks) and rented out 2 rooms in our house for out of town guests. Cheaply I might add.... $100/night. (if our house does not sell by April, we'll probably be offering housing again, but we're hoping....)
7) Getting in isn't that bad but there are a few things to remember that nobody (that I read) has mentioned.
There are specific things not allowed into Churchill Downs. The #1 being umbrellas. You can bring rain gear or buy them in the gift shop.
ANYthing you bring in must be in a clear plastic bag. NO drinks are allowed-unless it is unopened, and non alcoholic-this might have actually changed, since I do not believe ANY drinks are allowed but you can check by calling the track. (502-636-4400-they actually answer the phone 24/7, I just called to make sure the # was right and they answered it!)
Prices AT the track for food/drinks on Derby day are outrageous. A Mint Julep last year (in a Derby glass) was $9.50. And if you've never had one, you must try them. Make sure to crush the mint int he bottom of the glass...very yummy! Popcorn was $5 for a small popcorn. I think a hotdog was $3 for just one dog but can't really remember.
I've been to Derby-in the infield-twice. I've been to the Grandstands once. I've worked on Millionaire's Row the last 5 years. I got married at the track (Garden area by the Derby Museum) and this year, we're going to Derby but are not spending the $$ for the grandstands, instead are just paying the $40 general admin prices. All the tix I've seen for the grandstands are in the final turn and in my opinion, those are the worst seats...Obviously better than gen admin & infield but also not the price. Get what you pay for, however, but if you're already paying for lodging, parking, food, drinks, etc....I'd stick with the $40 tix.
As for parking, The Fairgrounds always offers a shuttle. IF they do not offer it, Papa John's stadium offers parking for $10 and the walk is only about 2 blocks from the track. If you stay in someone's home, see if they will offer to drive you to/from the track-or if you stay relatively close, get a taxi. Might have to wait a while, but it's not that bad.
If you need any assistance or would like more info from a huge Derby fan or would even like to make friends with someone else who is going to the Paddock.... send me a private message and we can all talk. This will be my husband's first time going.
Ok, I've probably written more than allowed!! LOL