The race is almost secondary.
The Kentucky Derby takes to the track Saturday, bringing all the pomp and circumstance right along with it. Celebrities in sunglasses and suits. Freshly-made mint juleps. Flowery hats the size of a truck tire.
Many times, the best moments in the Derby happen before the race begins.
So even if you’re not at Churchill Downs on Saturday (post time approx. 6:57 p.m.), you’ll want to capture the same vibes and create the same atmosphere.
One way to do that is with some Derby-themed party games. Pair them with the right drinks and a few well-placed horse betting wagers and your party will be a massive hit, even if you’re nowhere near the Old Kentucky Home.
Here’s our list of the best Kentucky Derby party games.
1 – The Derby Hat Draw
This one is pretty simple, but it’s championed even by the official Kentucky Derby site. Get all your attendees to throw some money in a pool. Then grab a hat – bonus points if it’s an obnoxious, oversized one – and fill it with the names of the racehorses on slips of paper. Try to keep the slips equal amongst the horses and make sure you have one for each guest. Whoever draws the name of the eventual winner gets to split the pot. It’s a simple and democratic way to have some Derby fun. And you don’t need any prior knowledge to play.
2 – The Auction
Want to spice things up a little more? This one also comes courtesy of the official Derby site. Write down the names of every horse running in the race and auction them off to the highest bidder. All the proceeds from the auction go into the pool and the winner takes all. This game might be better suited for those who have some basic understanding of the Derby entrants and their sports betting odds. It also has the potential to create some serious bidding wars. Perhaps you’ll want to have an accountant on hand to help process all that cash.
3 – The Derby Raffle
Most raffles rely heavily on luck. This one is different. When guests arrive, let them purchase tickets for a specified price. (You may also want to set a maximum limit on tickets so guests can’t purchase a sizable advantage). Then, have cups or containers labeled with the name of each horse running in the Derby. Partygoers should place their ticket(s) in the cup/container of whichever horse they think will win the race. They may choose to spread the tickets around or perhaps go all-in on a particular horse. The total from all ticket sales goes into a pot. Whoever has tickets in the container of the winning horse gets to split the pot.
4 – The Draft
“With the first pick in the 2022 Kentucky Derby Draft…” Are you already missing the NFL Draft? Are you hoping to rekindle your fantasy football fix? You could have each guest put a set amount of money in a pool when they arrive. Then, randomly assign your partygoers a number. You could simply draw numbers from a hat or deal out cards to determine a draft order. Once the order is set, each guest at the party gets to “draft” a horse. (Plan on having the same number of picks as there are horses in the Derby). Whoever drafts the winning horse gets the pot.
5 – Use the Pros
You could also use the odds from FanDuel Sportsbooks’ Horse Racing partner TVG to help create another game of your own. You could have your partygoers attempt to identify the horse that finishes last or perhaps take their chances at guessing the top two or three finishes. After all, it’s your party, so you make the rules – and the games.
But the most important rule is this: have fun.
Because in the end, the Derby is about a whole lot more than just some horses running around the track.
It’s one of the best parties in the sports world.
Don’t let it disappoint.