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DIY Wood Horse Race Game: Thrilling Derby Fun For All Ages

Ready to bring the excitement of the derby racetrack right into your living room? This DIY Wood Horse Race Game is a perfect family activity that’s both fun to build and thrilling to play! Looking for a fun party game? The Horse Race Derby Game is a crowd-pleasing addition to your Kentucky Derby party games. Great for all ages, this handcrafted game is sure to provide hours of entertainment and friendly competition.

I’ll show you how to build your own wooden horse race game and teach you how to play it. So get your derby hats on, and let’s get started.

Kentucky Derby Party Games - DIY Horse Race Game - fun for all ages and perfect for a derby horse race party.

Caution: Small objects such as golf tees, plastic horses, and dice should be kept out of reach of small children and pets.

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Why Do You Need Kentucky Derby Party Games

If you are hosting a Derby Party, you may want to consider some Kentucky Derby party games to entertain your guests. The race is approximately two minutes long, and after all your hard work and planning, you don’t want your guests to leave as soon as the race is over.

Today, I’m sharing how to build a Derby Horse Race Game, which is an excellent Kentucky Derby Party game. At the end of today’s tutorial, you can see some other game suggestions to make your party a success.

How To Build A DIY Horse Race Game

You only need a few supplies to build your own wooden DIY Horse Race Game. We used a pre-cut birch plywood board 2’x2’x1/2″. The board is a great size for the game, and you don’t need any power tools to cut it. All you need is a cordless drill to make the holes. Here is a list of everything I used to create this fun Horse Race Derby Game.

Prepare Birch Plywood

To prepare the birch plywood board, spray a light coat of the matte clear sealer over the topside of the board. Allow the sealer to dry. This will raise the grain of the wood and once dry, you will want to sand it smooth again.

You can use the fine-grit sanding block for the surface of the board, but you may need a heavier grit to smooth the sides. Brad used an electric sander to speed up the process, but it’s not necessary until you have one handy.

Draw Grid For Game Board

There are a few options for drawing the grid for your game board. For a simple design, you can draw the grids straight up the board. However, you know I like to decorate, so here is how I added the grids.

First, begin with a pencil and a ruler. If you make a mistake, you can erase it and start over.

Use ruler and pencil to draw the grid for the DIY Kentucky derby party games

Measure carefully and start at the bottom of the racetrack. You can vary the sizes of your grid, but I’ll share the dimensions I used.

If you are using the same size board as mine, you will begin your grid 1 inch from the bottom and allow 2- inches from the side edge. Draw out your grid with your ruler and pencil.

Graphic with instructions for drawing the grid.

Drill Holes For Horses

Now, you are ready to drill the holes for the horses. If you plan to use golf tees, you will want to drill the hole so that the tees will fit. We used a 3/16 drill bit.

You will drill a hole at each line intersection and at each point along the outer edge of the grid.

Drill hole in the grids to hold the horses for the horse race game.

Once you have drilled all the holes, you should sand any ruffed edges with a sanding block. Then, remove any sawdust and wipe with a tack cloth to remove all dust.

Paint The Horse Race Game Board

Now, you are ready to paint the game board around the outside of the grid. I used two coats of white chalk paint, but you can paint any color you choose.

How To Decorate The Horse Race Derby Game

You have several options for decorating your horse race derby game. I have provided the templates for the graphics I used.

You may choose to freehand the numbers and letters or cut your graphics using a Cricut or Silhouette machine. Here are the links to download and print these templates. You can click the image also to download.

Once the paint is dry, you can begin to decorate. Start by darkening the grid lines with a black Sharpie marker. Use your ruler or yardstick to create a straight line.

Highlight the grid lines with a black sharpie marker for the horse race game.

Next, make a photocopy of any of the graphics you wish to use on your Derby Horse Race Game.

Rub the no. 2 pencil or graphite over the graphic from the backside of the photocopy. Color around the edges completely. Place the photocopy on the wooden board with the pencil marks facing down. Position where you wish the design to go. Then, use an ink pen to trace the edges of the design.

Trace backside of the horse graphic with a no. 2 pencil to transfer the image to the wooden board.

Remove the copy paper and color in the design with a Sharpie marker or paint pen. Continue until all the graphics are in place. I added a red finish line along the top of the board where the horse numbers are located and a green line at the starting gate.

After the board is complete, I recommend spraying with a coat of matte sealer. This will ensure that your graphics and painted board stay fresh.

Add Horses to Golf Tees (optional)

Finally, an optional step is to decorate the golf tees with plastic horses. Add a drop of E6000 glue to the top of the tee and attach the belly of each horse to the glue. Stand the golf tee on the horse race game board holes until the glue dries. Be sure that no glue is running down the golf tee. If your board isn’t complete, put the tees into styrofoam so that they can stand until the glue dries.


The mini horses, golf tees, and dice items could get choked on by a small child or animal. Be sure to keep them out of the reach of small children and pets.


Rules To Play

The Horse Race Game has been a family favorite for many years, and therefore, you will find several versions of the rules to play. These are the rules I was taught, and we have had many hours of fun cheering for our horse to win the race. If you’d like to download the rules for easy access, I’ve created a printable version. Click the below image to download.

DIY Wood Horse Race Game Tutorial. Fun Party Game for All Ages

Additional Kentucky Derby Party Games

We have enjoyed this DIY Horse Race Game year-round, and I know you and your family will love it, too. However, there are some other games you may want to consider when hosting a Derby Party.

DIY Derby Horse Race Game Tutorial. Fun Party Game for All Ages

Video Tutorial

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial. Although making your own board is a little time-consuming, we love having a larger game board to play on, and it’s a better quality than most I’ve seen. If you have any questions, please let me know.

Pin It To Remember It

Did you find some great ideas you’d like to save for future reference? Hover over the images you’d like to save and pin to your favorite Pinterest Boards when you see the PIN button.

Handmade Kentucky Derby Horse Race Game Tutorial. Fun Party Game for All Ages. Full Instructions.
Handmade Kentucky Derby Horse Race Game Tutorial. Fun Party Game for All Ages.


Sunday 14th of April 2024

Amazing Rachel. I love crafting but wouldn't have the patience. Pinned!


Sunday 14th of April 2024

Cindy, I'm glad you like it.


Saturday 13th of April 2024

Thanks for the heads up about the Kentucky Derby. We enjoy it annually, but not until the actual event, too late to plan a party. This year, I'll be ready.


Saturday 13th of April 2024

Gail, I'm so glad. I'll be sharing a table ideas soon.