Two Races and How Many Winners? Derby Day Is Officially Here With A Contest!

Kentucky Derby weekend is upon us! How exciting! Like every year we are giddy with anticipation about the big race but something is very different this year from all Derby posts of the past.

For the first time in over a decade we will not be hosting a Derby party which means no cooking menu to plan or drinks to mix. Like the horses just before post time, I myself will be posed to break out of a gate fast and furious.  It’s not a horse gate and I won’t be in Kentucky – instead it’s an airport gate and I’ll be in Washington D.C. It will be a mad dash to the hotel with just over an hour before post time but if luck is on my side I’ll make it with moments enough to spare in order to drop my bags, grab a julep and watch the horses go. Fingers crossed.

Last year’s contest and 2016’s Derby winner – Nyquist!

Last year, we hosted a contest to guess the Derby winner with a very special vintage-themed gift as a prize. Although we had lots of fabulous speculations and a couple of close calls, no one picked Nyquist as the first to line finisher. With the promise of carrying over the un-won prizes from last year to this year, we will be holding the contest again but this time during the Belmont Stakes on June 10th. That gives us a chance to celebrate the races in true party fashion. It also makes the second leg of the Kentucky Derby all the more exciting. The horses by that stage will be one step closer to achieving the Triple Crown and you’ll be a seasoned expert on the horse racing scene of 2017.

Churchill Downs Oark on left. Belmont Park on right.

This change in the contest also gives you a chance to pick two winners this year – one for the Kentucky Derby and one for the Belmont. Twice the fun!  It is super easy to enter this contest. All you have to do is pick  your favorite horse to win this  year’s Kentucky Derby and type the name into the comments section below. This will automatically and officially register your pick. Next month, you will do the same thing for the Belmont Stakes. If one, either or both of your horses are picked as winners in the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont then you will be a winner in the contest.

If you haven’t caught up with the field yet, this year holds a spectacular group of contenders. The numbers next to each horse correspond to their post position in the starting gate. If you are feeling especially intuitive select your winner via face, name or number value.

From top left: (2) Thunder Snow; (17) Irish War Cry; (6) State of Honor; (5) Always Dreaming; (10) Gunnevera; (1) Lookin at Lee; (16) Tapwrit; (8) Hence

Or if you’d like to read up on this year’s entrants visit kentuckyderby.com for all the latest information, statistics and industry commentary.

Clockwise from top left: (19) Practical Joke; (15) McCracken; (13) J Boys Echo; (3) Fast and Accurate

So many fun names make up the roster this year…

Clockwise from top left: (7) Girvin); (4) Untrappd; (11) Battle of Midway; (9) Irap; (12) Sonneteer; (18) Gormley; (14) Classic Empire; (20) Patch

…Always Dreaming, Irish War Cry, Sonneteer and Practical Joke are among my favorites… but Patch is the horse of my heart this season. He only has one eye and that makes him an unusual entry, but it sure doesn’t slow him down.  A tumor in his left eye caused his handicap but he was so quick to recover and return to his normal pace that it seems destiny had decided this handsome guy’s fate long before his eye ever showed signs of sickness.

I feel a special kinship to Patch because I’m legally blind in my left eye and like him I’ve gotten along just fine all these years regardless. Many trainers believe that the power of racing comes from a horse’s heart, not their legs or their physique or their genetic makeup. It comes from their love and sheer excitement to run. One eye or two, it doesn’t matter. Patch has already proved he’s a contender in more ways than one.

Share your thoughts and your guesses for this year’s Derby winner in the comment section below. Voting closes at 5:45pm (eastern time) Saturday, May 6th, so like the race itself speed is of the essence.  There is also only one vote per person allowed, so make your guess a good one! Winners will be announced next week on the blog and the vintage prize package will be mailed out thereafter. Curious to see if  I’ll win the airport race in time to watch the horse race? Stay tuned to Instagram for that update on Saturday!

Good luck and Happy Derby Day!

 

2012 Kentucky Derby Party Menu

When Ms. Jeannie spent a couple of years in a rented house on a horse farm in pastoral Pennsylvania, she fell under the spell of Derby fever.  She lived in PA at the exciting time of Smarty Jones’ run for the trifecta, when friends would host ‘Smarty Partys”  and the pride of a local hometwown horse victory could be felt miles around.

Smarty Jones headding to victory at the Preakness!

Smarty won the Kentucky Derby. Everybody cheered! Smarty won the Preakness by 11 1/2 lengths. Everybody was enraptured!  Smarty rounded the last quarter mile at Belmont in the lead. Everybody was anxious. He neared the finish line. Hearts were hopeful!  Birdstone made a run from behind. Smarty and Birdstone were neck and neck. Birdstone crept ahead. Birdstone wins the Belmont.  You could have cut the devastation in half that day. It seems everybody was rooting for Smarty – even Birdstone’s jockey apologized!

And that, dear ones, is what makes horse racing so exciting! You just never know what may happen until the very last second. Sports enthusiast or not, everyone can appreciate a good suspense story and that’s just what the Derby delivers, year after year.

With just a week and a half left until Derby day, Ms. Jeannie has party preparations on her mind.  Every year, she sticks to a few traditions and then adds new elements on top to keep her guests surprised.

Ms. Jeannie always starts the party planning process by watching her two favorite horse movies…

Next, Ms. Jeannie visits kentuckyderby.com and reads up on all the entrants. Ms. Jeannie is a sucker for any horse that is white or has a great name. This year she has her eye on a few…

Hansen (aka the white one!)

Hansen

And these creative namers:

Went The Day Well

Daddy Long Legs

I’ll Have Another

And, because she loves all things Irish, Ms. Jeannie is throwing an extra bet on the Donegal Racing Stables entrant…

Dullahan

The favorite of the race right now is Union Rags, who has had an impressive race history and comes from a long line of champions. Ms. Jeannie always like the underdogs the best though. So she’s going to stick with her top picks above. Although that Union Rags is one pretty cute horse!

Union Rags

Now that she has her favorites picked out, she can start her party planning.

FLOWERS

Traditionally red roses would be the flower of choice for table decorations at any Derby party, but Ms. Jeannie likes to mix things up, so she’ll be using red clover flowers instead. They are blooming en masse in her side yard, and look so lovely and farmy that she can’t resist picking a few bucketfuls.

Red clover flower blossoms

MUSIC

The Corduroy Road was an Athens, GA based bluegrass/folk/Americana band that Ms. Jeannie first heard at an outdoor market a few years ago. She loved their twangy sound and old-fashioned lyrics, so much that she had them come play at her friends surprise birthday party.  Sadly, one of the two singers left the band to go to medical school, so they don’t play together anymore, but luckily they gave Ms. Jeannie some music before they said their goodbyes. So she treasures each song dearly and plays them often.  It is perfect party music, since it is subtle but upbeat. See for yourself… here’s one of their you tube videos…

COCKTAILS

When there is a horse running in the Derby with the name, I’ll Have Another, you just have to make them the star of the cocktail hour! Ms. Jeannie always serves Mint Juleps (tradition of course!) but this year she will also serve a new drink to match the bay color of I’ll Have Another. This drink is a Southerner’s delight, containing Jack Daniels whiskey (appropriate!), pecans, sherry and an intriguing  smoked element that can either be done on the grill or the stove.

Smoke Signals cocktail

Smoke Signals – Makes 4

  • 2 cups pecan wood chips (or hickory)
  • ice cubes
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans, toasted
  • 10 tablespoons Jack Daniels Whiskey or 10 tablespoons other whiskey
  • 6 tablespoons amontillado sherry wine
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  1. Line heavy large pot with heavy-duty foil. Sprinkle wood chips over bottom of pot; cover. Turn exhaust fan on high. Heat pot over high heat until smoke begins to form inside pot. Fill 9 x 4 1/2 x 3-inch metal loaf pan with ice. Place in pot; cover tightly. Smoke ice until just melted, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Cool slightly. Cover loaf pan tightly with plastic wrap; freeze until firm, at least 6 hours. Using ice pick, cut ice block crosswise into *large* smoked ice chunks allowing 1 per glass. Wrap tightly in plastic and keep frozen.
  2. Bring 1 cup water and sugar to boil in medium saucepan over high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add pecans; reduce heat to medium and simmer until syrup tastes like pecans, about 12 minutes. Strain; discard pecans. Cover and chill pecan syrup until cold, about 2 hours.
  3.  Place 5 tablespoons whiskey, 3 tablespoons Sherry, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and 3 tablespoons pecan syrup in cocktail shaker. Fill with plain ice cubes; cover and shake until cold. Divide mixture between 2 old-fashioned glasses. Repeat with remaining 5 tablespoons whiskey, 3 tablespoons Sherry, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 3 tablespoons pecan syrup, and ice. Place 1 smoked ice chunk in each glass and serve.
DINNER MENU
In honor of all white Hansen, Ms. Jeannie will serve an assortment of white cheeses from Trader Joe’s. She is keeping appetizers low-maintenance this year since the Smoke Signals cocktail is a little more involved. Plus, everybody loves cheese and Trader Joe’s carries a wide variety from all over the world.
For the main course, carrying the Irish theme for Dullahan, Ms. Jeannie will make a Braised Brisket with a Bourbon Peach Glaze.  Of course the peach glaze, gives it a southern flair, but it retains its Irish roots by being braised in beer! Ms. Jeannie will also being using locally raised grass-fed beef, other than that she will follow the recipe exactly. If all goes well it look like this:

Braised Brisket with Bourbon Peach Glaze

For a side dish, Ms. Jeannie will make homemade, oven baked bistro french fries, which for the occassion, she will rename, Daddy Long Legs, after one of her favorite Derby contenders in the creative names category.

For the recipe click here Bistro French Fries with Parsley and Garlic

For a second side dish, Ms. Jeannie will make a wilted spinach salad with goat cheese, dried cranberries and toasted walnuts, along with a homemade white wine dressing.

She’ll throw a few loaves of crusty french bread on the table as well and call dinner done!

For dessert, she will carry the Went The Day Well theme and offer her guests a bountiful array of locally grown strawberries (now in season!), crumbled dark chocolate pieces, smoked almonds and espresso. If she planned correctly, her guests will have indeed felt that in fact the day went well!

HAT

What’s a derby party without a hat! Ms. Jeannie still needs to get her derby hat, so don’t you panic either, there is still a little time left. Etsy has a large selection, depending on your budget. Here are Ms. Jeannie’s favorites in the following price points:

Under $20.00

Ivory Rose Fascinator by CastleMemories – $18.00

Under $50.00

1970’s Picture Hat from the Vintage Hat Shop – $42.00

Under $60.00

Wide Brim Black Derby Hat by theoiginaltree – $54.99

Under $80.00

Hot Pink Fascinator by HatsByCressida – $80.00

Under $200.00

Blue Sinamay Derby Hat by daisyhere – $175.00

Or you if you are of the crafty sort, you can make your own homemade derby hat from things lying around the house or the craft store. Either way, you’ll look stunning!
If you have any Derby traditions you’d like to share, please send us a message or a photo!
Cheers to all you race fans!