Five Easy Steps to Throwing the Ultimate Kentucky Derby Party
Known as “the most exciting two minutes in sports,” the Kentucky Derby horse race is so much more than 120 seconds. The Run for the Roses® is surrounded by longstanding, festive traditions–from donning colorful hats, fascinators, and fedoras, to sipping Mint Juleps and, of course, wine. It’s the ultimate excuse for throwing a party!
Five Easy Steps to the ultimate Kentucky Derby® party
Step 1 – Brush up on your race knowledge.
The Kentucky Derby is the longest-running sporting event in the United States, dating to 1875. The event takes place at the Churchill Downs race track in Louisville, Kentucky, on the first Saturday of May. Races are held nearly every 30 minutes on Derby Day, starting around 10 am in the morning until the highly anticipated main event in the evening around 6 pm.
During the hour before the race, the jockeys parade their horses from the barn to the race track. Following tradition, the crowd of 160,000-plus fans sings the official state song, “My Old Kentucky Home.” Afterward, the winning jockey is treated to a celebratory Champagne spray in the Winner’s Circle.
Here are some fun facts to share with your guests:
- The race distance is 1.25 miles.
- 20 horses will compete in the Kentucky Derby®, and you can find their rankings here.
- To earn a spot in the starting gate, a horse must first travel the Road to the Kentucky Derby – a series of 35 races across the country and the world. Points are awarded to the top four horses that finish in each of those 35 races, and the 20 horses with the most points get to race.
- The winning purse is $2 million.
- The rose garland has 400 roses and weighs approximately 40 pounds.
- There have been only 13 Triple Crown Winners—when a single horse wins the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes. The last winner, a horse named Justify, was in 2018.
Step 2 – Plan a Southern-style menu
Derby Day is as much a celebration of Southern classic cuisine as it is horseracing. From the appetizer to the dessert, these flavorful dishes and wine pairings will add an extra special touch to your party.
- Undeviled Eggs with Herbs & Horseradish paired with La Crema Monterey Chardonnay
- Pork Belly Sliders with “Hoi-Zin” BBQ Sauce paired with La Crema Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
- Dark Chocolate Budino with Blueberries & Basil paired with La Crema Brut Rosé Sparkling
Step 3 – Stock your bar cart
As an official wine sponsor of the Kentucky Derby, La Crema wines are the perfect pour for Derby Day. Choose the wines above or whichever La Crema wines are your favorites, and don’t forget the wine glasses and flutes for bubbly.
Of course, it wouldn’t be Derby Day without the Mint Julep alongside, so make sure to have bourbon and highball glasses or copper mugs on hand. There are plenty of Mint Julep recipes around but a basic combination of bourbon, simple syrup and fresh mint is perfect. An ice bucket with tongs, twizzle sticks, and sprigs of fresh mint make the perfect finishing touches for your Derby drink station.
Step 4 – Plan activities for your watch party
First things first, make sure you have your television or computer screen where your guests can gather around and watch the races. The 148th running of the Kentucky Derby will air on NBC from 2:30 – 7:30 pm ET, with the main event scheduled for 6:57 pm ET. You can find the full Derby Day race schedule here. Around 6:30 pm ET, the jockeys mount their horses and head to the track so be sure to tune in by then.
With the viewing, party dishes and drinks set, the only thing left to add is a dash of fashion and fun.
Derby fashion is all about embracing Southern glamour. Invite your guests to come dressed to the nines in fancy dresses, seersucker suits and—most importantly—hats. From fascinator hats (think the Royal Family at Ascot) and fedoras to bowlers and Stetsons, choose a style that fits your personality. We love Flea Style, for either buying hats or creating your own (just make sure to factor in the week or so that it will take for your hat to arrive after you build it with one of their stylists). Hint: Bold colors are in this year!
When it comes to games, keep it simple so everyone can watch the races and enjoy the day. Derby Hat Draw is a great choice. Ask each guest to contribute a sum of money or buy a fun prize yourself. Put the names of all the Derby horses in a hat. Ask your guests to draw the name of a horse out of the hat. Whoever has the name of the winning horse wins the pool or prize. For fun, you could add in a consolation prize for the person who has the name of the last place horse.
Another simple and fun game to play is Derby-inspired Bingo. Spot some horse-print attire or a couple in matching outfits on t.v.? BINGO! Download four different playing cards here. Derby Bingo Cards
Step 5 – Pop the sparkling and enjoy the race
Just before race time, pop and pour the La Crema Sparkling Brut Rosé, and get ready to cheer your favorite horses on. Winner’s Circle is, of course, a great excuse for pouring that second glass. Tag us with your party photos on Instagram for a chance to be featured in our story. Be sure to tag @lacremawine and use #lacremawines. Cheers to the 148th Run for the Roses!