Kentucky Derby Day Party
Celebrating the Kentucky Derby with Style!
The Kentucky Derby horse race is a HUGE annual event on the first Saturday in May every year at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. Thinking of throwing a Kentucky Derby Day Party? Derby Day can be a FUN springtime party whether you know a lot about horse racing or not.
You'll find some Kentucky Derby history here along with creative party ideas for a GREAT 'Run for the Roses' celebration.
* image: CrossCreations
Kentucky Derby History
The very first Kentucky Derby race was held in 1875, making it the longest run ever for any annual sporting event in the US.
Derby Day is the biggest day of the year in Louisville, Kentucky. Fans begin to crowd into Churchill Downs in the early morning, even though the Derby Race starts around 4 pm.
There are horse races all day long, and the Derby is always the 8th race. All horses in the Derby are 3 year-old filly thoroughbreds, so any given horse can only run in the Kentucky Derby one time.
The twin spires you see in the photo above are a classic image of Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, home of the Derby Race.
The Kentucky Derby and the Triple Crown
The Derby is the first race of the Triple Crown. Only a few horses in history have ever won the triple crown of all three races.
Horse Racing Annual Triple Crown Races:
- Kentucky Derby - Louisville, KY - 1 1/4 miles (10 furlongs)
- Belmont - Elmont, NY - 1 1/2 miles (12 furlongs)
- Preakness - Baltimore, MD - 1 3/16 miles (9.5 furlongs)
Many horses have won two out of the three races. Only ELEVEN have ever won all three legs of the Triple Crown. See list below.
The Kentucky Derby race is the first leg of the Triple Crown. It is held in Louisville, Kentucky on the first Saturday in May. The Belmont takes places 2 weeks later and the Preakness 2 weeks after that.
Triple Crown Winners
Watch Her RUN! AlySheba 1978 Derby
POLL: Ever Been to the Kentucky Derby? - ...and if you haven't ever been to the Kentucky Derby, stay tuned below & we'll take you there.
Have you ever been in Louisville, Kentucky on Derby Day?
Experience the Excitement of the Derby!
These film takes are an excellent collection of the final moments of a few Kentucky Derby horse races.
Celebrating the Derby in Louisville - Derby Day Hats & Celebrations & Parades, oh MY!
The Kentucky Derby is more than just one day in Louisville. In this video you'll see ladies picking out their Derby Day hats for the big event, the more outrageous the better!
Parades mark the occasion, too with marching bands and all, the biggest one always on Thursday before Derby Day. Watch the parade here.
Derby Day Party Games
Betting on the Derby Race at a Party
Party group betting is a fun way to enjoy the Kentucky Derby!
If you want to keep Derby Day Race betting simple... Just write each horse name and number on a slip of paper and throw them all into a hat or bowl. Then guests draw one in exchange for a buck (or $5 or whatever amount you choose) into the hat. Winner takes all.
If you have more guests than horses (usually there are about 20 horses running the Kentucky Derby), just make extras and winners split pot. Simple!
1) Same as above but for those who prefer to CHOOSE their horse, can do for a larger wager, say double bet amount or whatever you choose.
2) Instead of drawing from a hat, make a wall poster with all horse names and numbers on it. Then as guests place bets, write their name next to that horse. Consider even decorating the poster with horse stickers, etc.
3) *WIN - PLACE - SHOW: Win, place & show refers to those horses who come in first, second & third place. You might want to include these options as well. A simple way to do this is just three separate pots of betting wagers. Anyone who picks all three on the Derby Race will win BIG so have a special prize ready in case that happens (the chocolate roses below are one option).
4) *ODDS: At the racetrack, bet winnings depend on odds... for example if a long shot horse was rated 20:1 odds and won, then that bet gets 20 times the wager amount. For example, a $2 bet @ 20:1 odds wins $40. A $2 bet @ 10:1 odds wins $20. So you might want to incorporate these odds into a party betting strategy as a variation. Get some math nerd to figure that out.
Tips to Betting on the Kentucky Derby
What to consider before placing your bet on the Kentucky Derby...
Choosing a Winner People use all sorts of strategy in choosing winners in horse racing. Some try to predict winners by relying more on winning jockeys or trainers historically, while others study stat sheets and bloodlines for odds of winning. Still others choose simply by the name of the horse or the colors of the silks worn by both horse and jockey.
1) DistanceThe Kentucky Derby is a mile and a quarter track, which is pretty long for these 3 year-old horses. The winner will be able to strut their stuff for the long haul distance. The Derby is no sprint race.
2) Jockeys - Never underestimate the power of a good jockey, for they matter as much as the horse. In fact, if you do your jockey research you'll find one who rode the winning horse in several recent Derby Day races. Hint: Jockey's initials CB.
3) Weather - Rain on Derby Day means a muddy track and can change the entire race. Many horses tend to fall apart when having to race in the mud, while others don't seem to mind. If the track gets muddy, look for muddy track stats in recent races and that winner might just repeat the performance.
4) Post Position - Even an excellent horse loses odds by having to start from a lousy post position. The inside track is best.
5) Trainer - Same as the jockey, the trainer makes a huge difference as well. Trainers who have won other Derby races obviously know what they are doing in getting a horse ready for this BIG day! If you search, you'll find one trainer who has won THREE derby races. HINT: Trainer's initials: BB.
Derby Day Party Fashions
Derby Day Party Fashion - Fashion is BIG on Derby Day in Louisville.
Oh the finery worn by Kentucky natives on Derby Day in Louisville! Both ladies & gents will arrive at Churchill Downs dressed to kill, ladies in elaborate gowns and matching outrageous hats and gents in tuxedos with tails.
The crowd is a mix, though. Seats in the stands on Derby Day are very pricey and very difficult to attain. Some even say they nearly must be inherited, such as the box seats along the track called 'Millionaires Row'. So the remaining crowd brings their own lawn chairs and party gear to make themselves comfortable in the infield. You cannot bring liquor into Churchill Downs though (unless you do so in a highly creative way). They search coolers & all bags and pitch any liquor found at the gate. The Infield is general admission and you really cannot see much of the race from the infield, but you can BE there and BET and have a BLAST. Being in the Infield at the Kentucky Derby can be a bit like a mini Mardi Gras. Wild and crazy!
Everything goes on Derby Day! It's not uncommon to see a high society couple dressed to the nines next to some guy in cut off blue jean shorts and no shirt or a Derby T-shirt.
Create your Own DERBY PARTY Fashion !!!
A Derby Day Party does not need to be a formal affair, but either way ...
SEE the lei necklaces below. What a hilarious Derby Day fashion statement. Place one around the neck of each guest at your party!
Derby Day HATS! - Derby Day Hats are Essential!
Southern Belles wear hats on Derby Day, huge elaborate and colorful hats. It's a Derby Day Fashion show. So why not have a Derby Hat contest at your party and award prizes for the best Derby Day hats? Or collect some crazy hats and give them to guests as they arrive?
Derby Day Drinks! Mint Juleps
The Mint Julep
The Mint Julep was created by southerners to refresh themselves on sultry hot southern days. At the Kentucky Derby, Mint Juleps are served in a commemorative glass, however natives of Kentucky often serve them in metal glasses which keep the drink colder.
How to Make a Mint Julep
- Make Simple Syrup: Combine equal parts sugar and water and bring to a boil. Stir to completely dissolve sugar and remove from heat. Let it cool down before putting it in your Mint Juleps.
- Put a small amount of crushed ice in bottom of glass. Add 5 or 6 Spearmint leaves and gently mix leaves into the ice, this will release the essential oils for the mint flavor.
- Add more crushed ice is until glass is half full. Then add 2 ounces of Maker's Mark and 1 ounce of Simple Syrup.
- Garnish with fresh Spearmint leaves and a short straw.
- * The short straw is important because you're forced to bring your nose closer to the mint so you get the full aroma.
Mint Julep Alternatives
... for those Derby fans who do not dig Bourbon!
Southerners tend to love their Bourbon, and basically a Mint Julep is bourbon & water with sweetener. Regardless of the sweetener, many who taste this official Kentucky Derby beverage respond with... yuck!
Also they take awhile to make and you can't exactly make a huge pitcher of Mint Juleps. So do you want to go to all that trouble to make individual drinks for many guests when they taste nasty? Not me.
So... consider maybe a drink that LOOKS like a Mint Julep yet can be made in large quantities and actually tastes good to those of us who don't like the taste of bourbon & water. Try variations of Long Island Tea or Margueritas. Maybe add a bit of Sierra Mist or some sweet sparkling pop. Use crushed ice and put a sprig of spearmint in each drink and voila - a festive party beverage that LOOKS like a Mint Julep yet actually tastes good.
The sun shines bright on my old Kentucky home...
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2012 Carolan Ross