After parking your car in some guy’s back yard and walking a mile from his yard to the gates of Churchill Downs in high heels (and likely, with this forecast, in the rain), the last thing you want to discover is that you’ve lugged a prohibited item all that way.

You’ll either have to surrender that item or march it back to your car.

Either way, it’s a huge drag.

There are a bunch of new items on the prohibited list this year, most notably– and disappointingly– tents. So make sure you familiarize yourself with the list before you go.


• COOLERS (Styrofoam coolers, ice available at infield purchase points)

The Downs promises that they won’t gouge you with their cooler and ice prices– prices will be comparable to picking up these things at a convenience store on the way to the track … we’ll see.

• CANS (any size or type), glass bottles or containers

• POP UP OR PATRON TENTS – no poles or stakes of any kind

This is a game-changer. It will change how many people do Oaks/Derby. This was added to the “no go” list before the Boston Marathon and is a safety measure taken in response to a couple of windy infield days that set tents aloft and turned them into dangerous projectiles. Understandable restriction for sure, but it’s hard not to worry about drunk frat boys and sunstroke. Surely the track will have to provide more shelter than it usually does, some place for the Kappa Phis to snooze off their early morning buzzes in safety. 

• Camcorders

Just… why?

• Cameras with detachable lenses, or equipped with a lens that is 6 inches or longer

• Tripods

Just a smidge under 12″

• Purses larger than 12 inches in any dimension

Apparently this is the restriction that’s getting the most push-back. And for good reason. My lovely William Dean original is a wee purse by fashion standards and it just makes the cut at exactly 12″. 

• Grills

• Alcoholic beverages

• Thermoses

• Backpacks

• Luggage (includes briefcases)

Leave your work at home, Derby goers.

• Duffel bags

• Wagons

• Umbrellas

• Weapons (including knives)

• Fireworks, noisemakers, air horns, laser lights/pointers, mace or pepper sprays

I would think the actually dangerous stuff would be a little higher up on the list.


No no CoCo. Leave that bag at home this year.

• Food items in clear plastic bags (maximum size 18 inches-by-18 inches- no trash bags)*

• “Box” lunches in clear plastic bags or containers (maximum size 18×18 – no trash bags)

I hope local box-lunch suppliers are paying attention to this. 

• Purses, but none larger than 12 inches in any dimension (subject to search)

• Baby/diaper bags – only if accompanied by a child (subject to search)

How old must this child be? Can you bring your teenager and a diaper bag?

• Small cameras – none equipped with detachable lenses or lenses of 6” or more **

• Binoculars

• Sunscreen (non-glass containers only)

• Small personal music systems, radios and televisions** (No boom boxes)

Wait, you can bring a television but not a 13″ purse? 

• Cellular phones, smartphones and tablets**

• Binoculars

• Seat cushions (without back)

• Strollers (ONLY if carrying a child)

Well played. Very smart specification, Churchill Downs. So you can’t strap baby on your back and use the stroller to wheel around your drunk buddy. Got it.

• Chairs (Gate 3 ONLY)

• Blankets & tarpaulins (Gate 1 and Gate 3 ONLY)

* Limit of two bags per person ** Patrons could be required to turn on electronic items

The track’s advice: If you see something, say something.

Our advice: Write down where you parked. Wear sunscreen and stay hydrated. Bet on Borel!