Hosting the Perfect Derby Party

The Kentucky Derby is the greatest two minutes in horse racing! If you aren't planning on being at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May, why not throw a Derby party of your own!  Here are a few helpful must-haves when planning the perfect Derby watching party 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 at Churchill Downs on the trackside rail or even Millionaire’s Row. All it takes is planning and execution. 


Here are a few resources to help you get started:


Party Planning Guide from the Experts


The official Derby website offers a Derby at home tips with all the best party planning advice from ideas for décor, games and more.




Provide official race programs shipped directly to your door. Order by April 26 to ensure you will receive in time for your guests to enjoy.  These collectable programs make great party favors.  




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®. Get all the best Kentucky Derby “Flavorite” on our recipes page.




Mint juleps are the iconic drink of the day, made with bourbon, mint, simple syrup and shaved ice. Iced tea and cider are good 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.




The “Greatest Two Minutes in Sports,” as the Kentucky Derby is billed, truly 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 Justify in 2018. You can visit this beloved 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. Check out some of the most famous visitors throughout Derby history.  


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


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