Should Marty McFly come back from the future to visit Churchill Downs Racetrack on the first weekend in May with plans to attend the 142nd runnings of the $1 million Longines Kentucky Oaks (Grade I) and $2 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI), there’s a piece of his standard equipment that he would not be permitted to carry – or ride – through the track’s admission gates.
If the hero of the film “Back to the Future” shows up to enjoy for the pair of spectacular racing days and entertainment events, he must either leave his hoverboard at home or deposit it at the Churchill Downs admission gate.
Hoverboards are the only 2016 addition to Churchill Downs’ list of security “do’s and don’ts” for the Oaks and Derby, set for Friday, May 6, and Saturday, May 7, respectively, and Derby Week activities that include “Opening Night” on Saturday, April 30; racing on Tuesday, May 3, Wednesday, May 4 and Thurby on Thursday, May 5.
The ban of the new pieces of technology, which do not actually hover but have generated safety concerns as their popularity has surged in recent months, follows decisions by Churchill Downs in 2015 to ban selfie sticks, drones and remote-controlled aircraft from the track’s 147 acres during Kentucky Derby Week and throughout the year. The track and its law enforcement partners imposed those bands because of security and safety concerns for the massive crowds throughout Kentucky Derby and Oaks Week.
The current models of the gyroscopically-controlled “h-boards” are two-wheeled and self-balancing devices that have, in their brief history, generated several reports of incidents in which they have burst into flames while in use. Many American universities and colleges have either banned or limited the use of hoverboards on their campuses. Those institutions include the University of Kentucky, which has banned the devices on-campus, and Indiana University, which does not allow them in dormitories. Some sports facilities have limited use of the devices, and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission followed an investigation of hoverboard-related mishaps with the February publication of new safety hoverboards and word that owners of the self-balancing scooters that don’t meet those standards face detention, seizure or recall.
Aside from the addition of hoverboards, the list of security policies and items approved-or-prohibited for carry-in on Kentucky Derby and Oaks Days will be very familiar to fans of those celebrations of Thorougbred racing, fashion, food celebrity and fun that in most years rank 1-2 among most heavily-attended events in the sport. Last year’s Kentucky Derby attracted record attendance of 170,513 just hours after a record crowd of 123,763 gathered at the track for the Oaks.
The 2016 security policies and procedures list for Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks Days at the Louisville, Ky. track continues to include a ban on carry-in coolers at admission Gates 1 (Central Ave. grandstand and infield tunnel), 3 (infield), 5 (stable), 10 (Longfield Ave. parking lot) and 17 (Clubhouse off Central Ave). Other prohibited items include cans and glass bottles, alcoholic beverages, laptop computers and camcorders, pop-up or patron tents, cameras with detachable lenses, tripods, grills, backpacks, luggage, thermoses, umbrellas, weapons, fireworks and umbrellas.
Permitted items for Derby and Oaks carry-in are again headed by food items in clear plastic bags (maximum size of 18” x 18”), box lunches in clear plastic bags (maximum size 18” x 18”) or containers, small cameras with attached lenses, purses (but none larger than 12” in any dimension, all subject to search), water and soft drinks (clear plastic containers and unopened), sunscreen in non-glass containers, binoculars, baby/diaper bags (if accompanied by child, subject to search), strollers (if accompanied by child) and electronic items that include cellular phones, smartphones, tablets, small personal music systems, radios and small televisions.
The historic track also reminds patrons that a Kentucky Derby and Oaks policy that prohibits re-entry to the track for ticketed patrons who leave the grounds during those programs remains in place.
Churchill Downs announced last year that it would no longer allow re-entry by ticketed patrons who leave the track during those racing programs. The policy grew out of security concerns regarding wait times at the track’s entry gates, and incidents in which counterfeit tickets and wristbands and previously-scanned tickets were sold outside the track’s admission gates. Disappointed would-be patrons who purchased those tickets and wristbands discovered their purchases were worthless when they attempted to enter the track.
Churchill Downs’ security policies and procedures were significantly strengthened by the track, working in concert with its federal, state and local law enforcement partners, following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 and in advance of the 2002 Kentucky Derby and Oaks. There have been periodic changes and adjustments to those policies since their introduction, including a significant strengthening of security procedures following the 2013 attack along the route of the Boston Marathon just weeks before that year’s renewals of the Derby and Oaks.
Click here for a PDF roster of the prohibited and permitted for carry-in to the 2016 Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks.