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OPINION | WALLY HALL: Kentucky Derby remains the No. 1 race in the world

by Wally Hall | May 7, 2022 at 2:59 p.m.

It was 40 years ago that Rex Nelson and your trusty scribe drove to Louisville for the Kentucky Derby.

We stayed with his aunt and uncle, and took pictures of everything in Churchill Downs.

It was fascinating.

Back then the press parking was about 50 yards from the press elevator.

Churchill boasted the biggest press box in sports and it was huge with more than a hundred indoor seats and another hundred or so outside to actually watch the races.

At the time, the longer you covered the Derby, the better your seat.

Raoul Carlisle from Forrest City had seat No. 2 outside, next to New York Times columnist Red Smith. They were fast friends, according to Carlisle.

Churchill began to change.

First, cars were put on display in the infield. Shortly after came climate-controlled tenting in the infield. Admission prices soared, and then came the renovation.

Press parking was moved to 100 yards away, then a mile away to Cardinal Stadium, where we caught a shuttle.

The press box became suites. The media was moved to the top of the building in a much-scaled-down press box.

The next move was to rent the press box to multimillionaires. We were moved to the off-track betting facility with a view of the sidewalk and a parking lot.

Space is made available to watch the Derby, but only for a few minutes.

Lots have changed in 40 years, but no matter what Churchill does, the Kentucky Derby remains the biggest thoroughbred race in the world.

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