For the ninth time in the 35-year history of the Breeders’ Cup, the World Championships — horse racing’s Super Bowl — returns to Churchill Downs in Louisville on Nov. 2 and 3. Perhaps the best part about the world’s biggest races being run under the Twin Spires at Churchill is that more fans will be able to get in and attend in person. The Louisville track is larger than most and plenty of good tickets are still available, starting at just $60 for the two-day festival.
If you can’t make it this year, don’t sweat it. We’ve got you covered with a guide to throwing an awesome Breeders’ Cup bash of your own. A watch party with friends and family can be a lot of fun, as long as you’ve got the right eats, drinks, and entertainment. For our money, here’s the best way to apply your budget to create a bomb Breeders’ Cup watch party.
Food and Drink
What you eat at your Breeders’ Cup party should be entirely up to you and the tastes of your guests. If the weather holds up, grilling out could be a fun idea. You could also just simplify things and order in. There aren’t any real rules here.
Since the Breeders’ Cup is returning to the Bluegrass, you’ve gotta think Kentucky when it comes to preparing your food and drink menu. Quintessential Kentucky cuisine includes the hot brown, burgoo, fried chicken and barbecue. You’re probably already full just reading that last sentence. Your best bet is picking one entree and trying to ace it. If it’s extra cold out on the first weekend of November, you might even consider going with a Louisville-style chili (served over spaghetti!). There are lots of great recipes you can find by searching the Google machine but we can get you started with a range of options and a recipe for hot browns.
You can’t have a meal in Kentucky without dessert. Keep your guests happy with the classics — Derby pie and/or bourbon balls. Everyone has their own spin on pies, so feel free to go with your gut. There’s also no shame in cheating and just ordering bourbon balls from an online store. America’s Best Racing’s Penelope Miller tracked down a recipe for making your own bourbon balls with a little kick — it was featured in her Cinco de Mayo Derby post, which has a handful of tasty ideas that you can certainly still try on Breeders’ Cup weekend.
I shouldn’t have to even write it but you know that you’ve got to be fully stocked on bourbon. We recommend Maker’s Mark. You can drink it neat, add a little ice or go with old reliable, the mint julep. Our resident bourbon writer Fred Minnick shows us what a real mint julep requires and reminds us how not to mess it up!
Louisville and the Derby are synonymous with high fashion. Just because we’re talking about a racing event in the fall, as opposed to spring, that doesn’t mean that sharp dress isn’t highly encouraged. I’ve written in previous posts about watch parties that you might want to have a little fun with the fashion portion of your shindig by awarding prizes for the best dressed person or most stylish hat that comes through your door.
You can have a lot of fun offering prizes like Breeders’ Cup swag (which you can order here in the Breeders’ Cup Shop) or maybe even a box of those aforementioned bourbon balls.
As for hats and fascinators, your one-stop shop for all racing headwear should be Christine A. Moore, official hat designer of America’s Best Racing. Check out her latest Breeders' Cup creations or custom-order for your Breeders’ Cup party. Speaking of customizing, Christine can create pieces playing off of the classic Breeders’ Cup purple or design something that reflects the racing colors of your favorite horse or ownership team.
Fun and Games
We’ve suggested these for our Triple Crown parties in the past and they’d be a great feature at any Breeders’ Cup, too. If your guests don’t have an online-wagering account, you might want to give them some skin in the game – and rooting interest in the outcomes of the Breeders’ Cup races – by offering friendly betting pools.
One option is creating Super Bowl-style boxes where you list the numbers of each horse, both vertically and horizontally, and have people write their names in boxes corresponding with the winner of the race and second place finisher … and voila, you have an exacta pool. You can charge a few bucks per box, and whoever lands on the box with the two numbers connected to the exacta for any given race wins the pool.
You can also randomly draw numbers or do it with a deck of playing cards. You can put cards face down and have guests select them. If they draw a “4,” their horse in the upcoming race is the No. 4 horse. The jack, queen, and king cards would correspond with the 11, 12 and 13 horses. It sounds simple but it really is a lot of fun.
A Breeders’ Cup playlist is a must. Start compiling it now. Think about songs that will get your guests hyped up and that remind you of Kentucky. Here are some winning jams to start off your playlist.