We’ve assembled a checklist of Kentucky Derby party ideas and betting games to enhance your Derby watching and wagering experience. From colorful outfits and impressive hats to mint juleps, the Derby is as much of a social outing as it is horse racing’s signature event.
The annual “Run for the Roses” carries as much appeal with casual spectators — think of the Super Bowl — as it does with serious thoroughbred horse racing fans and bettors. Read on to get inspired.
Kentucky Derby betting game ideas
Some say it isn’t a horse race unless you’re betting on it. These Kentucky Derby betting games pair well with friends and of course mint juleps, the Kentucky Derby drink of choice.
We’ve rounded up several Derby betting party ideas and tips, including a mix of skill and straight-up guessing games all designed to enhance your Derby-viewing event. Brush up on how to bet on the Kentucky Derby with our helpful guide.
Kentucky Derby office pool
To start, build a board that lists all the Kentucky Derby horses slated to race. Next, get each of the pool participants to sign their name next to the horse that they think will win the Derby.
Make sure that everybody puts up the same amount of money and whoever chooses the winning horse, must divvy up the pot. If nine out of the 10 participants choose the favorite — and it wins — they will have to split the winnings nine ways. However, if the person that chose the underdog horse wins the pool outright they get to keep all the proceeds.
Derby hat draw
There should be no shortage of colorful hats on hand. Ask each of your guests to contribute a sum of money to a pool, then place the names of all the Derby horses in a hat. Each participant must then draw a horse’s name from the hat. The pool winner is crowned when a participant has picked the name of the winning horse.
Hold your very own thoroughbred auction, whereby each Kentucky Derby racehorse is auctioned off to a participant. Keep in mind that the odds-on betting favorite will fetch a higher price than the long shot. Add the auction sums to a pool and whoever bought the winning horse at auction wins the pool.
Lucky long shots
Here, you are betting on which horse will finish last and not first. To crown a winner, simply apply the last place wins rule to the above-mentioned games.
Envelopes for sale
Place the name of each Derby horse inside a sealed envelope. Set a price for each envelope that aligns with your group's wagering expectations and budgets. It could run anywhere from $5 an envelope or $100, depending on what kind of Derby watching crowd you are hosting.
Each participant picks an envelope when they pay for it, but they must not open it. At the conclusion of the race, take turns opening your envelope to see which one holds the winner's name.
The winner secures the entire pool winnings and bragging rights for the year. The fun here is that participants are encouraged to trade, sell or barter their envelopes any time prior to opening them.
Kentucky Derby betting squares
Long a fixture at any self-respecting Super Bowl party, a betting square can be equally useful and easily adaptable to Kentucky Derby party organizers. We find the easiest way to do it is by betting the exacta. Since there are 20 horses in the field, you should list each of those numbers on one side of the square. Label this the ‘win’ side.
For the opposite side, you need to list all those numbers again which represents the horse that finishes second. You must cross out the squares where the same numbers meet because a horse can't finish both first and second in the race.
That leaves 380 possible squares and only one will be correct. As the organizer, you can set a price that is reasonable for each square — low enough that people can afford to buy several squares, but high enough so the pot is enticing. Whoever buys the winning square takes the entire pot.
Keeping things simple makes it more fun for the group. The Show Parlay is an excellent choice for Derby betting since nobody in your group needs to be an expert on horse racing.
Two or more people post a share — think $1, $5, or more — and the group assigns an order for making a show bet in each race. Translation: the horse must finish first, second, or third to collect any winnings.
The first person must choose a horse from the field to show for the group. If that horse finishes in the top three, the group wins. The next person up cashes that winning ticket and then parlays the winnings back to show in the next race.
Timing “My Old Kentucky Home”
The Derby is a celebration of traditions and the singing of “My Old Kentucky Home” is most definitely one of them. The song's first verse and chorus are proudly recited at the Derby. While some complain about its length, others make spirited bets on the outcome.
Instant Replay: Kentucky Derby betting pools and ideas
What’s a Kentucky Derby party without wagering games? The beauty here is that these fun betting ideas are designed for folks who know nothing about betting or horse racing.
- Derby betting ideas and pools carry as much appeal as Super Bowl betting games.
- Encourage Kentucky Derby party guests to dress the part — colorful outfits and fancy hats are the order of the day.
- You’ll need more than two participants for each game to drive the fun and fund the respective pots.
Where can I bet on the Kentucky Derby?
Horse racing is legal in nearly every jurisdiction, but several sportsbooks do not post Kentucky Derby odds. Instead, you can turn to legal horse racing betting sites for your Derby wagering wants and needs. These sites fill the void in jurisdictions where online sports betting is not legal.
Here are the top Kentucky Derby betting sites available in your area.
Kentucky Derby betting pools FAQs
How do you host a Kentucky Derby betting party?
Send invites and encourage your guests to dress in colorful fancy clothes. Prepare mint juleps and get guests to participate in the Kentucky Derby betting pools and games highlighted above.
How can I watch the Kentucky Derby?
The Kentucky Derby airs May 1 from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and from 2:30 to 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC. Stream the coverage live on NBCSports.com and on the NBC Sports app.
Where can I find the list of horses running in the Kentucky Derby?
The field for the Derby is announced Tuesday, April 27 but changes are usually made right up until race time. Keep an eye on Kentucky Derby post positions.