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The race for Kentucky Derby tickets

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Louisville, Ky.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip of England are scheduled to make the scene at the Kentucky Derby on Saturday to watch Curlin and Street Sense compete in the field of 20 2-year-old thoroughbreds.

What? Haven't bought your ticket yet? Join the crowd. The Derby is one of the top 10 most popular tickets in the world of sports. Reserved-seat tickets for the world's most famous horse race run from $75 to $600. But here are some ways to attend:

Pay $40 at the gate for general admission and spend race day in the infield at Churchill Downs. Bring a lawn chair and be prepared to become a part of spring break, Kentucky Derby style. Fellow race-goers may be drunk and disorderly. By race time you will be surrounded by about 75,000 rowdy people, and some might vomit on you. And you'll be crammed into such a tight space that you may not be able to see the race.

Pay $40 for general admission for standing areas behind the clubhouse and grandstand. There isn't anywhere to sit down, you won't be able to see the race and, again, you'll be shoulder-to-shoulder with fellow race-goers. But they will be dressed better than the folks in the infield, you may be able to see the horses when they enter the paddock to be saddled, and a wide-screen video monitor will give you a better view of the race than if you watched it at home on TV.

Pay $40 and get in line early (6:30 a.m.) at Churchill Downs' Gate 10. You may be able to commandeer a patch of grass near the first turn.

Pay $1,980 to $5,955 or more (per person, double occupancy) for a tour that includes three nights' lodging, transfers to and from the race and reserved seats. Some agencies, such as On Point,, offer packages that cost as much as $25,950 for four and include a private jet from Los Angeles and limo service to Louisville, in addition to private tours of distilleries, horse-breeding farms and meetings with jockeys.

Try to get tickets from Churchill Downs, The track invites race fans to apply for tickets online a year in advance. I tried it to no avail. One man I talked to said he had applied 10 years in a row and failed to get tickets. But Debbie England, a West Covina resident, said she got them the first time she applied.

Pay $300 to $8,000 to buy a ticket online from individuals or ticket services. Buyer beware: Scalping tickets is illegal in Kentucky and buyers can never be sure whom they're dealing with or if they're getting forged tickets.

Win tickets. Radio stations and other organizations have contests, with Derby tickets as prizes. Check online.

Best of all? Go as a guest of a generous ticket-holder, corporation or other organization. Celebrities are especially welcome. Louisville thrives on the famous faces seen in town during Derby Week.

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