No one can deny that horses are some of the planet’s most beautiful animals. Their beauty and power is unmatched and at times, unbelievable. One way to witness their strength and grace is at the horse races. Over in sunny California, the sport of kings is more popular than ever and the state’s four major tracks are hosting lineups of events to entertain the crowds during a day at the races. Hat contests, gourmet food truck festivals, family fun days and free concerts are spicing up the horse racing scene. Here are some of the racing calendar highlights I thought might interest my horse loving fans like you:
Golden Gate Fields
Starting at California’s most northern track, Bay Area visitors can catch one of the best views of the city at Golden Gate Fields, situated in Berkeley, across the bay from San Francisco. Their autumn meet starts October 20 and runs through December 18. If you’re an NFL fan, check out Dollar NFL Sundays. Every weekend, the track airs all the weekend’s games on its 1,200 TVs and offers general admission, parking, hot dogs and beers for only a buck each! Guests can stay at the closest hotel to the track, the DoubleTree Berkeley and from anywhere in the city, race-goers can ride BART and catch a free shuttle ride to catch live Thoroughbred racing.
A few miles south, the picturesque San Gabriel Mountains make a stunning background for the Santa Anita Racetrack – known infamously as the home of Seabiscuit. Whether you’d like a 5-star experience at the Langham Huntington or a closer lodging spot like the DoubleTree Inn, be sure to get some rest and head over to the track’s Clocker’s Corner early in the morning to catch an insider’s scoop on racing. This well-known corner of the track sells breakfast and allows race fans to watch early morning workouts and mingle with jockeys, trainers and owners as they work their horses throughout the morning. Also at Clocker’s Corner, catch the Seabiscuit Tour before every race day for a guided tour through the original stall and barn, jockey’s room, silks room and saddling paddock. Santa Anita just kicked off its autumn meet on September 30 and will continue racing through November 6.
Over west is Hollywood Park, known as the home of 2010 Horse of the Year, Zenyatta. Close hotels include the Renaissance Hotel, Crowne Plaza and Hilton Garden Inn, which offer discounted rates to Hollywood Park visitors. Only at this track will guests catch night racing. Night racing takes place on November 11 and 18, and is followed by a concert that rocks the track into the night. Hollywood Park’s next racing season will start November 10.
Down where the turf meets the surf, the Del Mar Racetrack welcomes guests during the summer season for a seven-week meet. Known as founder Bill Crosby’s playground for Hollywood heavyweights, Del mar boasts festive and fashion-forward Opening Day crowds and a one-of-a-kind-hats contest. Guests can stay at the local L’Auberge or The Grand Del Mar hotels for a classy and exciting summer vacation. Del Mar’s Summer Concert Series draws big-name bands like Ben Harper and Weezer on weekends every summer.
Are you a fan of horse racing? What are your favorite race tracks? What are your favorite things to do near Golden Gate Fields and Berkeley, California?
For more information on Thoroughbred racing in California visit, www.facebook.com/CalHorseRacing or www.twitter.com/CalHorseRacing. Horse racing photos courtesy of Baileygardiner.com. Photo of Santa Anita Park courtesy of D. Watters, Blind Luck photo courtesy of Benoit Photo.