I've read that the grandstand is pretty crazy and everyone stands up in their seats. Is the third floor grandstand as bad? Also if we got section A first floor grand stand seats would we have a good view? I'm thinking that we should be able to see really well because no one will be in front of us.
I went to the 1987 Derby, had grandstand tickets somewhere up the stretch. We only got a brief glimpse as they flashed by. Turned out to be an interesting brief glimpse due to Bet Twice fouling Alysheba, but brief it was. Forget about seeing the finish. And yes, everybody stood up on top of those metal bleachers.
Went to the 1994 Breeders' Cup. I think I was in the exterior boxes in the clubhouse. Not up enough that you could go in and have private dining/refreshment sections, but up a bit. Definitely outside though - brrr! But the view was far, FAR better than my previous experience. Saw most of the stretch.
Note that CD has been remodeled since then. Not sure how much they changed seating. I toured it when at WEG, but we weren't in that section, went up to Millionaire's Row instead and then clear to the top next to the spires. It gave me a chuckle to hear the guide talk about the strict dress code enforced at Millionaire's Row - while I was standing in this super elite section with tennis shoes, jeans, and a WEG T-shirt.
But based on my two dates of going to the races there, I would shun anything labeled grandstand if you actually want to see more than 5 seconds of the race. Clubhouse better. Going up is good.
Based on getting pickpocketed at the 1987 Derby and having to get a loan from KOA Kampground to make it home (thanks again, guys! - they said they had bailed out a few travelers over the years and had not been stiffed yet), I would divide your money into 3 or 4 sections, preferably with zippers, and keep a VERY wary look out. Front-zip "fanny" pack turned around rather than purses. The crowd is massive, and the pickpockets are skilled. We never saw or felt anything.
From what I remember, and again this is back from 1987, grandstand lower level, top of the stretch, NOBODY was in their seats, and folks from behind had come forward and were packing in the gap between the front seats and the fence. Anybody who had seats was standing on them in an attempt to see over the masses between us and the track. And yes, I was in the LOWER grandstand, had a not bad view of the upper stretch for previous races, but the Derby was nuts. I really think that higher would be a better view than lower. Don't think "close to the track." Think "1000 people standing up and screaming and jumping up in an attempt to see in between me and the track."
I think with any grandstand seats you just need to be prepared to stand up and to not have much of a view, unless you are very tall. Seriously -- it's packed and "down in front" means nothing. Can't help with which seats are better than others. I think you'd just have to look at the map and guess.
I've been once (Barbaro), but we had a box. I could actually go most years and have a box or seats in one of the glassed-in rooms, but I choose to stay home and watch with my friends. (I can even get a media pass with access to almost anywhere, and I don't go.) It's just too crowded for my tastes. Even the boxes are pretty small. The rooms are nice, but the food is outrageously expensive and if you want to tour around at all, it takes forever because of the crowds.
I say go once and have a great time, but expect lots of long lines and don't expect a good view of the races, especially the Derby. If you gamble, handicap ahead of time and place your bets early. Take your own food and water (if they allow that this year).