Kentucky Derby partygoers: Here's your cheat sheet

So, you don't follow horse racing, but the neighbors are throwing a Kentucky Derby party. You don't want to sound dumb. What should you do?

The first thing to remember is it's likely that 95% of the people at the party know as little about horse racing as you do, and that may include your host.


Before we get to the horses, here are 10 basic terms or social graces you need to know. Stick with us, we'll get you through this.

• When offered a mint julep, the dreadful signature drink of the Derby, make sure you drink through a straw from the bottom of the glass. That's where all the powdered sugar is and likely the only way you can make it taste drinkable.

• Ask if the whiskey is Maker's Mark. If not, you can legitimately thumb your nose.

• Never ask or say, "Which horse should I vote for?"

• If you're a woman, please wear a hat of outrageous proportions. Derby Day is like Halloween for the head.

• Don't ask if a horse has ever won the Derby before. It's a race just for 3-year-olds; a horse can run it only once.

• Colts are the boys and fillies are the girls. A gelding is a male who has been castrated. Why? Usually to calm him down.

• A furlong is one-eighth of a mile. The race is a mile and a quarter or 10 furlongs. This will be the first time any of the horses have run that far.

• When the race starts, if the opening quarter-mile is run in around 22 seconds, you can say: "Knew with this field there would be fast fractions, they won't be there at the end." If the opening quarter is around 25 seconds, you can say: "Really slow pace, one of the front-runners might actually hold up."

• Pretend to get teary when they play "My Old Kentucky Home."

• Remember the other two legs of the Triple Crown: the Preakness, which is held in Baltimore in two weeks, and the Belmont Stakes, which is held in New York three weeks after that. If the same horse hasn't won both the Derby and the Preakness, no one cares about the Belmont.

OK, on to the horses.

At most Derby parties you get the chance to buy a horse in a blind draw. At some parties you draw selection order and you do get to make your pick but, let's face it, that's just too much work.

Once you've got your horse chosen, you need to say something either smart or witty about your horse. Here are some suggestions:


(Saddlecloth, (Post position), Horse, Jockey, Trainer, Morning Line Odds)

Note: The number of the horse and post position they run out of may not be the same.

1. (2), Ocho Ocho Ocho, Elvis Trujillo, James Cassidy, 50-1

How he got here: He won the Juvenile Turf Sprint at the Breeders' Cup, although the race was moved to the dirt. Has three wins in five races.

Why he'll win: Maybe his daddy, Street Sense, winner of the 2007 Kentucky Derby, left the secret to winning the race in his DNA. That's his best hope.

Why he won't: Unimpressive in 2015 as he had his doors blown off by Dortmund in the San Felipe Stakes and faded to third against Carpe Diem in the Blue Grass Stakes.

2. (3), Carpe Diem, John Velazquez, Todd Pletcher, 8-1

How he got here: Winner of four of five races, including the Blue Grass and Tampa Bay Derby this year, this horse will be at the bottom of a lot of trifectas.

Why he'll win: He was bought for $1.6 million and named Carpe Diem (Latin for "seize the day"). 'Nuf said. This could be his day.

Why he won't: Hasn't really run against anyone great this year and won those races in a way that turned your open mouth into a yawn.

3. (4) Materiality, Javier Castellano, Todd Pletcher, 12-1

How he got here: He is three for three lifetime, but all are this year. Most impressive win was in the Florida Derby.

Why he'll win: He has the highest Beyer speed figure (110) of any horse in the race. Don't ask, just realize that's a good thing.

Why he won't: The last horse that didn't run as a 2-year-old and went on to win the Derby was Apollo … in 1882.

4. (5) Tencendur, Manny Franco, George Weaver, 30-1

How he got here: Best performance is a second in the Wood Memorial. His only win in five starts was in a maiden special weight.

Why he'll win: He's shown steady improvement and has the ability to rate (not too fast, not too slow in early running), so could be ready for a strong stretch run.

Why he won't: It's his first race away from Aqueduct and he's still looking for his first graded stakes win. In other words, he eats at the kids' table.

5. (6) Danzig Moon, Julien Leparoux, Mark Casse, 30-1

How he got here: He has only one win (a maiden) in five starts but a second to Carpe Diem in the Blue Grass gives him the street cred to run here.

Why he'll win: He loves the Churchill Downs surface, having finished second in a race last year and a blistering 58-second workout in April.

Why he won't: He's improving but still has several lengths to make up to be around the top horses.

6. (7)  Mubtaahij, Christophe Soumillon, Kiaran McLaughlin, 20-1

How he got here: He's pretty active, having won four of seven races, all overseas. His last race was a win in the UAE Derby.

Why he'll win: Horse definitely has raw talent and comes from a very good international stable. Has run twice at 1 3/16 miles, just shy of the Derby distance.

Why he won't: He was only third on the upgrade list, so he was stuck in economy plus on the plane trip from Dubai to U.S. Just kidding, he got the upgrade.

8. (8) Dortmund, Martin Garcia, Bob Baffert, 3-1

How he got here: What a horse — he's undefeated in six starts, including a win in the Santa Anita Derby. There's no blemish on his record.

Why he'll win: He's just that good. He can win on the lead or he can win off the pace. He's won at Churchill Downs. And, his daddy is Big Brown, the 2008 Derby winner.

Why he won't: He's running against stablemate American Pharoah, who may just be the better horse. Plus, there's always the traffic problems in a 19-horse field.

9. (9), Bolo, Rafael Bejarano, Carla Gaines, 30-1

How he got here: He has two wins in five starts with no graded stakes wins. He finished third in the Santa Anita Derby.

Why he'll win: If he can get a good trip, he could be a factor for the bottom of the trifecta. He has a penchant for running wide but the large field could keep him closer to the rail.

Why he won't: He's really a turf horse. Both of his wins have come on the grass and it's clear he's just prefers it. His daddy, Temple City, was a turf and synthetic runner.

10. (10), Firing Line, Gary Stevens, Simon Callaghan, 12-1


How he got here: He's never finished worse than second and has won twice, including the non-prestigious Sunland Derby.

Why he'll win: He almost beat Dortmund in the Bob Lewis at Santa Anita, meaning he's got some ability. His win in Sunland was by 14 lengths, and he wasn't trying very hard.

Why he won't: He may get caught up in a fast early pace, leaving him little gas in the tank for the final quarter-mile.

12. (11), International Star, Miguel Mena, Michael Maker, 20-1

How he got here: He's heavily raced, with nine starts and five wins, including the Louisiana Derby. He finished fourth in his only race at Churchill Downs.

Why he'll win: He seems to like the rail, and if he gets a smooth, ground-saving trip he may show everyone why he is three for three this year.

Why he won't: The same reason he could win, he likes the rail. Unless you are Calvin Borel, the rail can be a dangerous place and easy to find yourself with no racing room behind a wall of horses.

13. (12), Itsaknockout, Luis Saez, Todd Pletcher, 30-1

How he got here: He has three wins in four starts, but his graded stakes win was in the Fountain of Youth, where he was placed first after a disqualification.

Why he'll win: The karma of his name. What better horse to bet on the day of the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Manny Pacquiao fight? Plus, his daddy is Lemon Drop Kid, a winner of the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes.

Why he won't: He had a very disappointing performance in the Florida Derby, finishing fourth. Even his owner was unsure of running him here.

14. (13), Keen Ice, Kent Desormeaux, Dale Romans, 50-1

How he got here: He's won only once in seven races and has really not been very impressive in the prep races for the Derby.

Why he'll win: His only win came over a mile at Churchill Downs, so he likes the track. That's all we have, nothing else positive except he does have some late speed.

Why he won't: A fourth in the Louisiana Derby. Really? Fourth against a weak field.

15. (14), Frosted, Joel Rosario, Kiaran McLaughlin,15-1

How he got here: After some sound early racing he had a terrible performance in the Fountain of Youth, but his trainer made some adjustments and he won the Wood Memorial.

Why he'll win: His performance in the Wood could be a sign that this horse is in top shape and ready to contend. He's definitely someone to watch.

Why he won't: If the Wood was just a fluke, he's likely to run in the back half of the field. Despite good connections, his consistency is worrisome.

16. (15), War Story, Joe Talamo, Thomas Amoss, 50-1

How he got here: Probably by van from New Orleans. You mean racing? Two wins in five starts, mostly at Fair Grounds in Louisiana. Nothing spectacular.

Why he'll win: His best racing is ahead of him. He seems to fire each race and if he gets a tactical advantage he could surprise some people. We just made that up, he doesn't have a chance.

Why he won't: He just hasn't raced elite horses yet and hasn't passed any of the secondary Derby horses.

17. (16), Mr. Z, Ramon Vazquez, Wayne Lukas, 50-1

How he got here: The most raced horse in the field he has one win in 12 starts to go along with four seconds and thirds.

Why he'll win: He has Hall of Fame trainer Wayne Lukas, who has won four Derbys. He's a solid workmanlike horse who normally finishes near the front.

Why he won't: He's never won a graded stakes race, although he has come close. In the end, this race is little too steep for his talent.

18. (17), American Pharoah, Victor Espinoza, Bob Baffert, 5-2

How he got here: Spectacularly. He's won his last four races (three of them Grade 1) with Beyer figures all over 100.

Why he'll win: Because he's the best horse in the field. That pretty much covers it.

Why he won't: Lots of things can go wrong in a 19-horse field, many of which he'll have no control over. No horse has ever won from 17 post.

19. (18), Upstart, Jose Ortiz, R.A. Violette Jr., 15-1

How he got here: He's never finished worse than third and has three wins in seven starts, including a second in the Florida Derby.

Why he'll win: He is used to running well in the big time as three of his last five races were Grade 1 and the other two were Grade 2. He shouldn't be rattled by the quality of competition.

Why he won't: He had a sinus infection three weeks ago and it's not known if there are any lingering effects. He has never run at Churchill Downs.

20. (19), Far Right, Mike Smith, Ron Moquett, 30-1

How he got here: Wins in the O'Reilly Stakes and the Limbaugh Derby — oh, just funning you. Three wins in six starts including a second behind American Pharoah in the Arkansas Derby.

Why he'll win: Mike Smith, arguably the best jockey in the game, will be aboard. Smith will know how to take the horse's late speed and make it work for him down the stretch, picking off the early speed.

Why he won't: His Beyer speed figures are rather modest and he may need way too much racing luck to get to the finish line ahead of everyone else.

21. (20), Frammento, Corey Nakatani, Nick Zito, 50-1

How he got here: He made the field when Stanford scratched on Thursday. He's won one of seven races lifetime.

Why he'll win: In awards ceremonies, the losers usually say, "It was an honor to be nominated." So, let's go with that one.

Why he won't: Because he's slow compared to all the other horses.

Twitter: @jcherwa