Hats off to Kentucky Derby parties!

We enjoyed a daily double this year for the Kentucky Derby and, after a hectic week, the afternoon with friends was exacta what we needed.We kicked off Derby Day at the famous Col. Tim and Janice party. Kentucky born and bred, Col. Tim hosts an annual race-day party that is as authentic as the bourbon in Janice’s Derby Pie.

Lucky guests sip mint juleps and place bets in front of an impressive looking racing board. For a couple of hours ahead of the most exciting two minutes in sports, they nosh on southern fare, chat up fellow guests, admire ladies’ headwear, study the racing form and place their bets.

Raised by a father whose self-written obituary read “all things considered, I’d rather be at Hialeah,” my husband Vince bets studiously. Raised by a mother whose lucky number is 8, he also always bets the No. 8 horse.  In 2009, the latter strategy paid off in a big way for us when the No. 8 horse, Mine That Bird, galloped to the second biggest upset in Kentucky Derby history. (The biggest took place in 1913 when a 91-1 longshot named Donerail won).

We left the party with a tidy purse that year and worried we wouldn’t be invited back.

Lucky for us, we scored another invitation and in 2010, following Grandma Mary Jane’s strategy, nearly everyone at the party bet on the No. 8 horse, which was unfortunate.

This year another unlikely winner, I’ll Have Another, set the theme for us. Though neither of us bet the winner, Vince and I had a great time at Col. Tim’s party and then said, “I’ll have another,” and headed across town to our family friends’ annual Kentucky Derby Party.

Post-race, the party was still rolling and we jumped right in, narrowly losing the Kentucky Derby trivia contest by answering a whopping five out of 16 correctly.

For a second time, we tasted some delicious food, admired some colorful hats and sipped a little julep.

There’s nothing like a little Southern hospitality to brighten up Midwestern Saturday afternoon, though the ole Kentucky home’s far away.

Al and Jenny team up to man the racing board.
Crushed ice, fresh mint, simple syrup and Maker’s Mark add up to a delicious once-a-year drink.
Quite a delicious spread and this is only the main dining room!
Vince discusses racing strategies with Liz and Julie.
Many TV’s, including a few outdoors, show the race. Note the mantel with the collection of Kentucky Derby glasses and the lovely print of Churchill Downs.
My bets…not one winner. At my inaugural visit to Arlington Park in 1986 I bet on Charming Peggy, in honor of my mother. The jockey fell off the horse mid-race and the horse DNF. This year I chose El Padrino, in honor of Cinco de Mayo, Hansen, because I wanted to bet on the white horse, Creative Cause, the No. 8 horse and both Bodemeister and Dullahan, because I thought they would win. I think I may need a new strategy.
We dwarf our second Kentucky Derby party hostess, Kirsten, even with her enormous hat.

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