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NYC's best Kentucky Derby parties with free juleps, hat-making and more

The greatest two minutes in horse racing is also a great excuse for dressing up and day-drinking.

Unless you own a racehorse, Saturday’s 142nd Kentucky Derby will be as much about giant hats and mint juleps as ponies. There’s a whole day of bourbon-and-champagne fun leading up to those two minutes of racing, and we rounded up some of the best things to do before the main event at 6:34 p.m.

What started in 2003 with three roommates having a good time in their apartment has grown into a 500-guest affair. This year’s Brooklyn Derby is going down at Greenwood Park (555 Seventh Ave., South Slope), where they’re turning the beer garden into a bourbon garden with yard games like bocce, a hat-making station and “areas that can only be defined once mint juleps are in our system.” Get in on the all-inclusive party ($75) from 4-8 p.m. with Maker’s Mark juleps, wine and beer, Southern snacks and live bluegrass and big band music.

The party at Flatiron’s upscale mancave The Liberty NYC (29 W. 35th St.) is pulling double duty for the derby and as a celebration of its fourth anniversary. The fun goes from 3-9 p.m. with f-r-e-e Maker’s Mark juleps, bubbly, food and prizes for best race attire. Reserve your spot on Eventbrite.

Named for two thoroughbreds who ran the derby at the turn of the last century, the East Village’sSaxon + Parole(316 Bowery) is sure to do Derby Day right. From 3-7 p.m., the terrace and bar will be transformed (that’s your cue to transform your look for the day, too) with a bluegrass band to set the tone; light bites like oysters, seafood towers and Kentucky-inspired dishes; and a julep mixing station, as well as opt for beer, wine and bubbly. The $90 tickets are all-inclusive.

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Per 15’sWatermark Bar(78 South St.) is hosting a rare all-ages party beginning at noon and going all the way until 10 p.m., with food (fried chicken, shrimp salad, burgers, etc.) and drink packages from $19.98. Wear your best boating attire (there’s a hat contest every hour, and if you don’t have one there’s a balloon artist on hand) and enjoy the waterfront views while playing giant beer pong, horseshoes and cornhole.

Doors open at noon for Bounce Sporting Club’s derby day party, with beats by Roberto Flay and brunch to kick things off. Arrive in your best Southern duds and get in their photobooth to pose with props like horses and a Belmont Stakes bugler, and keep the day going with the event’s signature drink, the Not Your Basic Julep: G.H. Mumm Champagne, Jack Daniel’s answer to Fireball whiskey, strawberries and mint ($10). You can also try your hand at champagne sabering, or just buy your own mini ($24) or full-size bottles ($195). Guess the winning horse, and you’ll be entered to win a pair of tickets to next year’s race.

Saturday wraps Schweid & Sons’ NYC Burger Week with a food derby atBrother Jimmy’s Live, the recently revamped restaurant-music venue in Union Square (116 East 16th St.). Beginning at 5 p.m., vote with your mouth among four burgers vying to get on the menu: Blue Grass (bleu cheese, bourbon onion jam), BLfgT (bacon, lettuce, fried green tomato), BJ’s BBQ (cheddar, chipotle barbecue sauce, fried onions) and the Hot Brown (open-faced burger with pimento cheese). Try them all for $40 — with a paired craft beer or Woodford Reserve cocktail.

Watch the race on one of the city’s biggest screens atTY Barinside the Four Seasons, where the action will play out on a 12x12-foot screen. From 4-8 p.m., official race bourbon Woodford Reserve cocktails are the order of the day, like the Ginger Peach Julep (ginger puree, mint, peach liqueur) and Sweet Bourbon Punch (tea, orange juice, limeade, bourbon). Dress your best — Woodford reps will be giving out prizes, with a special category just for the most creative hat.

Esquire magazine’s derby party is open to everyone at theAinsworth Midtown (45 E. 33rd St.), an all-inclusive bash from 4-8 p.m. with Maker’s Mark cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, a roof deck cigar lounge courtesy of Nat Sherman and bluegrass music. Dress to impress. Tickets are $125; tables available for parties of four or more for $175 per person.

The jockeys are back flanking the entrance of‘21’ Club(21 W. 52nd St.) in time for Derby Day. Arrive at 3:30 p.m. for a Southern-style party, so don’t hold back on the hats and seersucker. The $65 ticket includes two drinks and bar bites like cornmeal-fried oysters, mini hot browns and bourbon-glazed ham on a biscuit. Prizes go to those who pick the winner, while best dressed get dinner for two. Call 212-582-7200 for reservations.

The only crowd as ritzy as Churchill Downs gathers atEleven Madison Park. Alas, tickets ($265) are sold out, so sign up for 2017. Here’s what you’re missing: raw bar, juleps, cigars, champagne (with sabering demo), live music and EMP’s fried chicken from 3-7 p.m. Proceeds go to the Saragota WarHorse Foundation, an equestrian therapy organization that works with veterans.

The race will be screened in two rooms atThe Bell House(149 7th St., Brooklyn). The 142nd Kentucky Derby Party begins at 2 p.m. with a set from Hungry Marching Band spanning every musical genre that uses brass instruments, and food specials like chocolate julep pie and burgoo stew, the ultimate Southern kitchen sink dish. Tickets are $8 in advance, $10 at the door.

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