The 142nd Kentucky Derby is slated for Saturday, May 7. Coverage begins early on NBCSN, with four hours of Derby prep running from 12-4 p.m., which then switches over to NBC from 4-7 p.m. for the undercard and the Run for the Roses. Best course of action, make this an afternoon soiree, with guests arriving at 4 p.m. and leaving shortly after the main race (keeps from making this a dinner party to boot).
Have betters in the crowd? Apart from private sport books, guests can place wagers on twinspires.com—one person per account—so create those accounts early to beat the race time crunch. And speaking of betting, placing a wager without a little inside info is just plain reckless; so order a few race day programs and have them delivered to your home just in time for the party.
Last year’s Run for the Roses introduced the country to American Pharoah, a bay colt that, after stumbling in the first race of his young career—a fifth place finish in a two-year-old race at Del Mar Racetrack in August 2014—ran the table in every race since, capturing thoroughbred racing’s elusive Triple Crown after an impressive gate-to-wire win at the Belmont Stakes on June 6. The 37-year Triple Crown drought was snapped in commanding fashion, making the 2015 race season one for the record books.
This year, the field is stacked headed into Churchill Downs, with 27 horses tossing their hat in the ring as of press time (April 21). Topping the leaderboard with 151 points, Gun Runner, has serious competition in point’s runner-up, Nyquist. The California-based bay colt is undefeated heading into the ten furlongs of Churchill Downs, recently vanquishing fellow unbeaten Mohaymen at the Florida Derby earlier in April. As the anticipated morning line favorite, Nyquist should be the horse to watch in the fastest two minutes in sports.
But lets be honest, the majority of Americans tuning in on race day are there for the party. From the big hats to the Southern traditions, the Kentucky Derby affair is an American tradition 142 years in the making. For those that cannot make it to the Twin Spires at Kentucky’s iconic Churchill Downs, the storied Pimlico Race Course of Baltimore, or New York’s marathon at Belmont Park, its time to throw a little Triple Crown fun here at home, Florida style. Here we offer some tips for throwing the ultimate thoroughbred party.
Playing the bugle might be a lost art, but that doesn’t mean you can’t join in on the post parade festivities. Sing along to Stephen Foster’s “My Old Kentucky Home,” the Kentucky Derby’s official song, which has been performed by the University of Louisville Marching Band since 1936.
My Old Kentucky Home
By Stephen Foster
The sun shines bright in the old Kentucky home,
Tis summer, the people are gay;
The corn-top’s ripe and the meadow’s in the bloom
While the birds make music all the day.
The young folks roll on the little cabin floor
All merry, all happy and bright;
By’n by hard times comes a knocking at the door
Then my old Kentucky home, Good-night!
Weep no more my lady. Oh! Weep no more today!
We will sing one song for my old Kentucky home
Throwing a Derby party doesn’t mean a thing if ain’t got that bling. We’re talking silver of course. From silver julep cups to platters and bar accessories, silver is the metal of choice for all things Derby. If the family collection lacks in proper thoroughbred accouterment, Arthur Court has a pretty extensive selection of goods for party, with a catch. As one of the pioneers in alternative metals for serveware, Arthur Court’s Derby collection is made out of sand-cast aluminum, which has the look and feel of polished silver without the incessant need of actually polishing it.
The Kentucky Derby collection has an extensive collection of race day items, including those julep cups—both specific to the 141st running ($35) and Kentucky Derby neutral ($39, right)—while various catch-alls, service trays and accessories will round out the festive decor—the Churchill Downs tray ($39, below) and cocktail napkin box ($40) are a nice touch for the home bar.
If strictly Derby-themed stuff is not your thing, the Equestrian line also offers plenty of horsy-type goods too.
To give your place an air of Twin Spires authenticity, the Kentucky Derby official online store has a few party favors to add to mix. From balloons and coasters to food picks, streamers, and plates, makeover that South Florida adobe with a touch of “My Old Kentucky Home.” And if you are looking to send revelers home with a little goodie bag, opt for some glass tumblers.
The beauty of an at-home Kentucky Derby party is you can have all the infield fun without all the infield mess. For some non-horserace fun, try playing one of these Derby-themed games for adults and kids.
The always popular horseshoes is a staple of Derby parties. The game is simple:
Place two metal stakes 40 feet apart, which players alternate throwing the horseshoes at.
- One point for the nearest shoe to the stake, within six inches.
- Two points for a leaner.
- Three points for a ringer.
First player to 21, wins (must be two point differential).
* If the idea of flinging rounded pieces of steel on your manicured yard doesn’t jive with your party plans, break out the cornhole set—essentially horseshoes with small beanbags.
The bartender challenge
As we have laid out in this post, the mint julep is hallowed ground for the Southern gent and lady. Test your party guests’ mettle with a home bar contest: the Mint Julep Challenge. The game is simple:
- Setup a table with all those mint julep fixings, as well as a few extra ingredients and bar tools to see if it throws your competing mixologists off the mark (add some bitters, cocktail shakers, strainers, etc. These are sure to add to some confusion).
- Get yourself an egg timer, get those guests behind the bar, and have them each create their own mint julep.
- Have your three best palates taste their creations, the winner of which earns the honor of making the rest of the afternoon’s mint juleps—or a souvenir mint julep tumbler—to each their own.
Tip: This contest might be best done outside—the splashing and mixing from hurried bartenders tends to be a mess.