It’s Derby week and everyone’s a handicapping expert right?  Wrong?

However, there are a couple of great options when it comes to getting a good tip, listening to some expert chatter or how about breakfast while watching the thoroughbreds during their morning workout.

For some it’s being or knowing someone with connections to the backside of Churchill Downs, but for others it can be watching from high above the track in the twilight hours. And there is the Louisville favorite where everyone loves to talk horses and that is Wagner’s.

Churchill Downs Track Kitchen

Churchill Downs Track Kitchen

Backside Access and the Track Kitchen – The excitement on the backside of Churchill Downs during Derby week is unlike any other and hard to put into words. Every owner, trainer and jockey continues to believe throughout the week they have a shot at winning the Derby.

For those lucky enough to get on the backside seeing D. Wayne Lukas, Bob Baffert, Todd Pletcher tell the story of their horse and why it will win while standing in front of their Derby hopeful munching a carrot or peppermint is an experience.

However, unless you have connections such as owner, trainer, friend or media access is not available. But if you do then watch workouts from the backside rail, see the steam coming off the horses after a workout and then wander over to the Track Kitchen.

Nothing fancy here, but you will a fresh hot breakfast or lunch with American and Spanish influences. All the while walking out the door and standing by the rail. They are open 6 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Dawn at the Downs – From backside rail to high above in Millionaires Row it is a Derby week tradition.

Derby week dawn at the downs

Derby week dawn at the downs

From Tuesday to Thursday of Derby week you can have a reserved seat and breakfast buffet at the chef’s table during the morning workouts for $37.  Reservations are required.

While watching the contenders gallop below ESPN & CNN contributor, Gary West, and resident expert handicapper, Joe Kristufek, critique their workouts, discuss their past performances, and provide analysis of the Kentucky Derby and Oaks races.


Wagner’s  – Yes the pharmacy name was dropped two years ago when they stopped filling prescriptions, but the ironic store has been around since 1922. They offer a basic bargain breakfast where often you can find yourself seated next to trainers and jockeys.


Wagner’s Pharmacy

Synonymous with the neighborhood the staff, regulars and first timers easily understand why “Wagner’s is Churchill Downs; Churchill Downs is Wagner’s” That came from founder Leo Wagner finding his niche to corner the market by allowing horsemen buy their cigarettes and other staples on credit. Thus a love affair between the two was born.

Famous people and pictures of Derby winners adorn the wall of the old fashioned soda fountain and diner. History is truly all over the walls. Scenes from the movie “Secretariat” were shot on site and the café has been featured on countless shows and in publications.

Fresh hot biscuits roll out of the kitchen along with bacon, eggs, sausage and ham. A great breakfast platter gets you ham and eggs ($8.29), bacon or sausage and eggs ($7.99) all with toast or biscuits and potatoes or tomatoes.  On the run grab a fried egg sandwich ($3.99). No breakfast is complete without a side order of grits.

Come in for lunch and get some homemade bean soup, chili, derby sandwich (hot honey glazed ham, melted Swiss cheese and mayo) with a pickle and chips for $6.49. A little more hungry try the pork chop sandwich and fries ($7.99) or chicken fingers and fries ($7.99).

3114 S. 4th Street 502.375.3800