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Hosting the Perfect Derby Party



The Derby is the greatest two minutes in horseracing but Kentucky is also home to world-class thoroughbred racing at Keeneland and other tracks across the state. If you cannot make it to Churchill Downs in person, here are a few helpful must haves to plan the perfect Derby watching party of your own complete with mint juleps, hot browns, bourbon balls and Kern’s Derby-Pie®.

With some preparation, you and your guests are bound to get in the true Kentucky Derby spirit and enjoy the day almost as much as those lucky enough to be on the Churchill Downs trackside rail or even Millionaire’s Row. All it takes is planning and execution. 

Here are a few tips to get started:

Party Planning Guide from the Experts:  
The official Derby website,, offers a comprehensive, downloadable guide with all the best party planning advice from a planning timetable, budget, ideas for décor, games and more.  

Order official Derby programs, which contain the lowdown on all the entries in the day’s races, so your guests can handicap like they’re at the Downs. Visit and click on the Kentucky Derby tab in the gray navigation bar to order official programs.  You can also download and print official racing forms after the field is set the Wednesday proceeding Derby and find the information at 

Traditional Derby dishes include Hot Browns (open face turkey and bacon sandwiches with Mornay sauce), bourbon-marinated pork, country ham and biscuits and Kern’s Derby-Pie®. For all the best Kentucky Derby “Flavorite” Recipes, visit
Mint juleps are the iconic drink of the day, made with bourbon, mint, simple syrup and shaved ice. Iced tea and cider are nonalcoholic alternatives.  Each year, almost 120,000 Mint Juleps are served during the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs Racetrack. This many drinks requires a staggering 10,000 bottles of ready to serve bourbon cocktail mix; 1,000 pounds of fresh mint and 60,000 pounds of ice. Visit here for a delicious Mint Julep recipe. 

The “Greatest Two Minutes in Sports,” as the Kentucky Derby is billed, lasts only that long. So plan some other Derby-inspired activities to keep your guests entertained before and after the race. Since Derby attire is traditionally known for lavish hats, consider a hat contest and offer a prize. For the kids, set up horseshoes and corn hole games and stick-horse races. Have each guest draw a horse’s name out of a hat to cheer for during the race. The winner gets a prize.

You can wager online for the Kentucky Derby at, Official Partner of the Kentucky Derby. Register and fund the account before the day of the party and watch the videos to show you exactly how to place a wager. 

Fun Facts:
Impress your friends at any Derby gathering with your knowledge of these fun factoids. 
*The winner of the first Derby in 1875 was Aristides. 
*The most recent Triple Crown winner was beloved American Pharaoh in 2015. You can visit this Triple Crown at his retirement home, Coolmore's Ashford Stud farm in Lexington. 
*The fastest winning time for the 1-1/4-mile Derby was posted by Secretariat in 1973. After blazing a 1 minute 59 second finish in the Derby, Secretariat went on to win the Triple Crown.
*Three fillies have beaten the boys to claim the coveted blanket of roses awarded to the Derby winner. They were Regret in 1915, Genuine Risk in 1980 and Winning Colors in 1988. 
*Celebrity watching along Millionaires’ Row in the clubhouse is almost as popular as watching the races from the grandstand on Derby day. Among the most famous recent spectators were Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip of Great Britain, who were in attendance in 2007.

Finally, don’t forget to turn on the TV in the party area so everyone can watch the race!