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Run for the Roses

Celebrate the greatest two minutes in sports with thoroughbred derby fare. The race of the roses may be over before you know it, but who says the party has to stop? We've got tips, tricks and recipes to keep your party right on track. You can bet on it!
Classic Hot Brown

At-the-Gate Invitations

  • The Kentucky Derby is always the first Saturday in May.
  • Check your local TV schedule for the exact time of the Run for the Roses. Plan your party around that time, serving dinner either before or after.
  • Add horse, horseshoe or rose stickers to purchased invitations, or make invitations using computer clip-art.

Rosy Derby Decorations

  • Buy bulk roses--as many as you dare--to fill vases throughout your party area. Or place single red roses in several locations. They can be great mementos for party goers, as well.
  • A collection of derby memorabilia makes great centerpiece material. Or if the memorabilia isn't readily available, check travel agents or stores for posters. Learn more about the Kentucky Derby at and the Kentucky Derby Festival at
  • Made-to-scale horses, available at toy stores, can be used in centerpieces or arranged next to the vases of roses.
  • If you show horses, this is your chance to display your ribbons, photos and medals. Jockey silks, saddles and other tack make good decorations, too.

Off-to-the-Races Activities

Thoroughbred Fun

  • Pin the name of a race contender (or use famous winners) on the back of each guest. Party goers have to guess who they are by asking questions of other guests.
  • Hold a lively discussion of the horses, jockeys or trainers. Do your homework, and have an official program available for referral.
  • Play Pin the Tail on the Thoroughbred. It's the classic game of Pin the Tail on the Donkey with a Kentucky twist! Pin an enlarged photocopy of a horse on a wall for the target.

Party On

  • Viewing the two-minute race is important. A large-screen TV is helpful, or consider having several TVs for easier viewing.
  • Be sure to gather everyone just before the big race on TV to sing "My Old Kentucky Home" along with the huge crowd gathered in Kentucky! Or play a CD or tape.
  • Host a hat contest; be sure to include it in the "dress code" section of your party invitation. Have camera in hand to capture this fun event. Or include hat making as an activity! Provide wrapping paper and newspapers to shape into hats, with glue guns and tape to secure. Decorate hats with ribbon, buttons, beads and dried flowers.

Offer Extra-Special Mementos

You'll want to order these well ahead of race day.

  • Derby glasses, the decorative glasses in which mint juleps are sold at Churchill Downs, are available through mail order or Internet sales.
  • An official Kentucky Derby program (similar to the program or the exact program sold at the track on Derby Day). It will help your guests follow the race.

Rosy Food Presentation

  • Garnish Parmesan Cheese Ball with tomato flowers to resemble roses.
  • Make Starry Ice Beverage Cooler for serving Mint Juleps or lemonade. Use mint for the herbs and roses (or rose petals) for the cranberries. Use this same ice idea for making bowls to hold fresh strawberries or asparagus spears.