By Sheryl Craig
Celebrating Derby Day is one of the great horse race traditions of the South, and it doesn’t preclude the west coast from reveling. This May 5th marks the 143rd year that the Kentucky Derby has taken place. Along with placing bets on the leader board and rooting for the favorite to cross the finish line first, the Kentucky Derby puts on a beautiful show. From classic mint julep cocktails to Southern Belle hats and gentlemen’s pinstripe blazers, Angelenos love a good party. Los Angeles bars, restaurants, Will Rogers Polo Club and Santa Anita Park are welcoming spectators to enjoy a day at the races.
Will Rogers Polo Club
Will Rogers Historic State Park
1501 Will Rogers State Park Road
Pacific Palisades, CA 90272
Catch Southern Derby Day fever at the 3rd Annual Derby Day LA event at Will Rogers Polo Club on the beautiful green grounds of the historic Will Rogers State Park from noon to 6 p.m. Not only will patrons enjoy live polo matches on this opening day celebration, but they will also have the opportunity to watch the Kentucky Derby. For an estimated ticket price per person of $135 (this was the 2017 price), attendees can sip on champagne, order specialty cocktails, fancy live music, peek at the celebrity red carpet and revel in the beautiful atmosphere. A portion of the proceeds will benefit local horse charities. Tickets go on sale April 1, 2018.
9595 Wilshire Blvd.
Beverly Hills, CA 90212
What’s a Derby without the classic Mint Julep cocktail? As Southerners gather at Churchill Downs, Angelenos are invited to watch the famous horse races at Ocean Prime in Beverly Hills. Grab a seat in either of Ocean Prime’s two lounges to view the legendary race. The lounge menu has lots handcrafted cocktails including the traditional Mint Julep (made with Old Forester bourbon, Disaronno and Angostura bitters) as well as savory nibbles to help ease the suspense of the Derby — sliders, lamb lollipops, a superior raw bar and sushi.
11647 San Vicente Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90049
Southern style will shine upon guests at Baltaire’s annual Kentucky Derby viewing party from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Guests are invited to don wide-brimmed hats, blazers and bowties for a best hat and overall outfit contest (gift cards will be awarded to winners). Several large projector screens will live stream the races, while Baltaire serves choose-your-Julep Derby cocktails (bourbon, gin, rum, rye, tequila or vodka). Nibble on Executive Chef Travis Strickland’s favorite Southern dishes including his Kentucky Hot Brown sandwich – house smoked turkey breast and braised pork belly, Campari tomatoes with roasted garlic cream sauce and white cheddar on toasted brioche. Raffle tickets will be on sale with proceeds to benefit No Kid Hungry.
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Santa Anita Park
285 Huntington Drive
Arcadia, CA 91007
A great day is planned for the races at Santa Anita Park. Next to hosting a live day of Thoroughbred racing, the Park offers a Derby Hat contest (Most Creative, Most Glamorous and Fascinators & Fedoras) that is free and open to all attendees. There is a party for everyone ranging from $25 to $85. Trackside party-goers can spend about $25-30pp for a souvenir pint glass, food and adult beverage, and wagering voucher, too. Head into the Chandelier Room ($80pp) dressed to the nines for wine, spirits and fare and balcony viewing), the FrontRunner brunch ($85pp) includes Champagne and a great spot for watching the track in a glassed-in restaurant atop the grandstand. Santa Anita Park is always thinking – there is a family fun zone package designed just for kids at $45-$55pp. And if these packages don’t thrill you, just come to the Park for $5 – reservation not required.
655 N. Harbor Drive
Redondo Beach, CA 90277
The Shade Hotel in Redondo Beach is a splendid destination to celebrate the Kentucky Derby west-coast style. Reserve a table from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the hotel’s waterfront Sea Level restaurant and lounge to participate in the Derby party. Sip on Derby-inspired drinks including the classic Mint Julep, and nibble on the restaurant’s hors d’oeuvres and small plates. Deck out in your best Southern wear and you may get a prize. Shade Hotel always hosts a fun affair.