The Kentucky Derby costume party

The Kentucky Derby may be known as “the most exciting two minutes in sports”, but it also owns the reputation as one of its biggest party days.

Fans from the infield to Millionaire’s Row take the opportunity to wear outlandish get-ups at the Derby that would draw confused looks in just about any other setting – loud-colored suits for the guys, and elaborate hats of all shapes and sizes for the gals. Along with the mint juleps and the slurred renditions of “My Old Kentucky Home” that they inevitably cause, the Kentucky Derby wardrobe is almost as much a part of the tradition as the race itself.

But what if the outfits had a little meaning behind them?

If done right, the Kentucky Derby holds the potential for a killer costume party. Instead of dull buttons or boring t-shirts, fans could show who they are backing in the big race by wearing a related disguise. It’s an automatic conversation starter, and just imagine the fun NBC’s announcers would have scanning the crowd during lulls in the action for creative outfits.

The ideas for some horses practically write themselves from their name or circumstances. Others require deeper thought to find the right look. To help save time, I have done the legwork and come up with costume ideas for fans of the current top 20 horses on the graded earnings list, according to The top 20 will assuredly change between now and the first Saturday in May, so I have also included a few ideas for some horses on the earnings bubble. Better safe than sorry.

Behind the jump are a few ideas for the key players on the Kentucky Derby trail, listed in order of graded earnings. If anyone has ideas of their own, feel free to suggest them in the comments.

1. Uncle Mo
I’m going to try really hard to avoid going overboard with the Simpsons references, but the opportunity rarely arises to dress as “Family Feedbag”-era “Uncle” Moe Szyslak in context. Bonus points to any attendee who completes the outfit with a Million Dollar Birthday Fries hat.

2. Pants on Fire
For perhaps the most epic win of any horse on the board, show up as General Larry Platt – the genius behind the American Idol smash hit “Pants on the Ground“. Quadruple points goes to anyone who comes to the Derby with the General actually in tow. In a pinch, one may dress up as Brett Favre, who entertained the Minnesota Vikings locker room with his own rendition of the song. Negative points for making inappropriate text jokes.

3. J P’s Gusto
Play the bad guy and go to the Derby dressed as a JP Morgan executive. For added effect, steal your friends’ winning tickets to light your cigars, because your gambling habit is “too big to fail”.

4. Soldat
Soldat is German for “soldier”, and nobody in their right mind wants to be the guy dressed as Adolf Hitler at a party like this, so we will have to stretch a bit. But to keep some semblance of the theme, it is acceptable to attend the Derby as a Hitler ‘stache-rocking Michael Jordan.

5. Comma to the Top
Being as though his connections now appear to be on the Derby trail without actually pointing to the race itself, just don’t show up at all.

6. Master of Hounds
Mr. Burns, the releaser of hounds. Include Waylon Smithers for a tandem costume. Excellent! (I could only make it five spots without making another Simpsons reference. A true testament to my cultural willpower.)

7. Twice The Appeal
It might be hard to find someone else who will back this horse enough to dress up in support of him, but if you can achieve that task, this would be a good spot for the Doublemint Twins. Double the fun, indeed.

8. Mucho Macho Man
For a race fan flying solo, it’s all about Randy “Macho Man” Savage. For groups, The Village People is the clear choice, but only choose this route if you and your friends are willing to perform “Macho Man” on command. Otherwise, don’t waste your time or ours.

9. Decisive Moment
Game shows thrive on decisive moments. Take your pick from any of the most notable of the on-screen fraternity – Bob Barker, Alex Trebek, Regis Philbin, that scary lady from The Weakest Link, etc.

10. Animal Kingdom
A fan supporting the Spiral Stakes winner could pose as a character from the Australian film of the same name, but no one would have the foggiest idea who you are supposed to be. The same can probably be said about any costume tying in with Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park, unless the costume somehow includes a working miniature roller coaster (I’ve seen it on hats. Take it to the next level!). Instead, show up as Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, whose song “No Rules in the Animal Kingdom” (It’s most definitely “Parental Advisory” territory. Find the song on your own time.) has been stuck in my head since the Spiral’s post parade.

11. Astrology
Miss Cleo. Next.

12. The Factor
Being as though the horse is a favorite of pundit Bill O’Reilly’s soapbox program The O’Reilly Factor, dressing up as the host looks like a slam dunk. Glenn Beck probably wouldn’t be much of a stretch, either.

13. Stay Thirsty
You could go as The Most Interesting Man in the World, spokesman for Dos Equis, but be prepared to get overcome with self-consciousness and doubt if and when you should cross his path on the way to place a bet. There can only be one.

14T. Jaycito
We could stretch the pronunciation into justifying posing as Jay-Z, but the window for dressing up as a member of N Sync and having anyone get it is closing rapidly. In this case, J.C. Chasez would be the logical choice.

14T. To Honor And Serve
Most of the Google  search results that do not have to do with the horse focus on military personnel. Showing up as a mint julep-waving soldier might not fly too well with those who have served, so instead consider slapping on some nose putty and attend the Derby as the entertainer of soldiers – Bob Hope.

16. Santiva
According to, Santiva is a name of Sanskrit origin meaning “Bearer of Peace”. Indian peace bearer? Mahatma Gandhi it is!

17. Dialed In
Gun-themed costumes are probably frowned upon at Churchill Downs, so let’s try another route. Cell phone spokespeople are plentiful, from the “can you hear me now” guy to the T-Mobile girl. Take your pick and annoy everyone within earshot.

18. Watch Me Go
Dress up as Mickey Mouse and start pointing at things. Boom, instant watch.

19. Premier Pegasus
Don’t even bother. Kegasus will blow you out of the water at the Preakness.

20. Nehro
Dressing as Emperor Nero would be too obvious. Known as the leader who supposedly played the fiddle as Rome burned, let’s venture down the rabbit hole a bit and go with a Centurion Charlie Daniels.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

And because I just have that much time on my hands, here are some ideas for a few of the horses on the outside looking in. Don’t go putting the costumes together until their bubble status is a little more secure, but it’s never a bad idea to plan ahead.

21. Archarcharch
What costume list would be complete without a clown? Fans of this colt could come to the Derby as Ronald McDonald, the spokesclown of the Golden Arches.

25. Silver Medallion
26. Ruler on Ice
Nancy Kerrigan, America’s most famous silver medalist, would fit the bill for either, or both. For the truly tasteless, make it a tandem costume with a tire iron-wielding Tonya Harding.

29. Queen’splatekitten
Because he’s named after Canada’s version of the Kentucky Derby, there are plenty of options here. I recommend everyman handyman Red Green or professional wrestler, and rival of the Big Boss Man, The Mountie.

40. Bench Points
Darko Milicic (yes, I am still bitter about this pick).

55. Shackleford
King of the Hill’s wacky neighbor Dale Gribble, A.K.A. Rusty Shackleford.


Filed under Triple Crown

6 responses to “The Kentucky Derby costume party

  1. In memory of Elizabeth Taylor (National Velvet fame, etc), I envision Cleopatra…a chariot….gold embellishments…giant diamonds… You could even trail a blue carpet (like red carpet) to simulate “The Nile.” (That’s a stretch, I know)

  2. White Camry

    “21. Archarcharch
    What costume list would be complete without a clown? Fans of this colt could come to the Derby as Ronald McDonald, the spokesclown of the Golden Arches.”

    With a third arch.

  3. mibredclaimer

    That would be a big way to make an entrance on the red/pink carpet. This sounds like a task for Lady Gaga!

    White Camry,
    I briefly considered the continuity error in McDonalds only having two arches when the situation warranted three, but I figured if readers were willing to join me on the ride from Soldat to Michael Jordan’s Hitler mustache, they’d be willing to overlook a missing arch.

  4. ragman

    May as well get local racing involved. On Fla Derby or Wood day have any of the tracks across the country which wish to participate have a contest and the best costume in the Derby tradition wins a trip to Churchill for the Derby. The tracks would gain some publicity and maybe draw some new attendees. If CD wanted to stage the finals from all the winners that should also pick up some publicity.
    Maybe some betting vouchers at the local tracks to anyone who shows up on Derby Day in appropriate dress.

  5. ragman

    How about the simulcast bettor who cashes the largest win wager on the winner of the Fla Derby or Wood at your local track winning a trip to Churchill for the Derby.
    Looks like Beulahs handle will be way down on Derby Day this year.

  6. mibredclaimer

    These are really good ideas. If you can land some kind of sponsor to pay for the Derby tickets, the overhead would be minimal with high attraction potential. If some track out there ever gives me the keys to the place, don’t be surprised to see this idea shamelessly ripped off.

    As for the p.p.s., I assume you are referring to the Fortune 6 wager that is no longer with us. I can’t imagine that bet was anything less than a huge moneymaker for Beulah Park, and having it reach its climax on the sport’s biggest betting day only made it all the better. It seems like they cooked the golden goose here. Too bad.

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