Del Mar Turf Club: your chance for access

Horse racing’s annual Triple Crown may have concluded without a new winner yet again, but that doesn’t mean that racing season has ended. Starting in mid-July, the luxe Park Hyatt Aviara resort is offering an exclusive partnership with the historic Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, a member’s only establishment that’s typically only been accessible to a select few.

Frequented by celebrities of both yore (think Bing Crosby and Ava Gardner) and today (Gwen Stefani, Owen Wilson), the turf club is opening its gates to guests of Park Hyatt Aviara Resort as part of a new overnight package offering.

The tony Turf Club is a genteel place from which to view some of Southern California’s best races. The Club includes amenities like private betting windows, food, and a bar.

Be advised a dress code is strictly enforced, including suits or daytime dresses for ladies a mandatory suit or sport jacket for gentlemen. Collared shirts are required, and short sleeved shirts are permitted only if the shirt is buttoned to the top button.

The Triple Crown races to Baltimore: Preakness 101

Saturday, the second “jewel” of the Triple Crown races in to Baltimore with the Preakness Stakes at the historic Pimlico race track. Decidedly more casual than the Kentucky Derby, Preakness is best known for its raucous infield revelers and fun-laid back atmosphere.

Planning a trip to see Animal Kingdom compete for his next win, or simply looking for a reason to spend the weekend in Baltimore? We’ve got some ideas. Of course, our friends over at AOL Travel have an extensive city guide as well.Planning to attend the race? Here’s the 101:
Grandstand attendees still dress up, but don’t bother with the over-the-top hats of the Kentucky Derby. A pretty sundress and hat will do just fine. Dress for comfort in the infield, where traditions generally have included too much drinking, and yes, port-a-potty races. Legal crackdowns have seen significantly mellower crowds in years past, and this year’s race is no exception. Preakness InfieldFest 2011 ($50) will include performances by Bruno Mars, Train and Hotspur on the main stage and the Beer Garden Jägermeister Stage will also feature concerts by Mr Greengenes, Phil Vassar and Puddle of Mudd. Unlimited beer will run you $70 with a wristband, although you can BYO food. No beverages are permitted inside the gates.

Want to skip the race but still see the track?
Try a sunrise tour of “Old Hilltop” at Pimlico. The 20 minute tours run from 6 AM – 9 AM Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of Preakness week. After enjoying sunrise on the Grandstand Apron, you will get an insider’s perspective on racing during an escorted tour of the Preakness Stakes Barn. You will have an opportunity to shop for Preakness Souvenirs, stop by the Pimlico Museum and maybe even peek into the jockey’s quarters, then head back outside to watch the horses go through their morning workouts. Reservations are not taken, tours are on a first come, first serve basis. For more information, email Diana Harbaugh.

While you’re in Charm City … be sure to visit:
We know, you’ve seen The Wire and are terrified to visit the drug war-ravaged city that is Baltimore. Don’t be. This scenic and historic town is full of vibrant attractions and great restaurants. Check out the Babe Ruth Museum before catching a baseball game at Orioles Park. Love sea creatures? The Baltimore Aquarium is one of the East Coast’s finest, as is the Walters Art Museum. Afterwards, stroll the Inner Harbor, while a bit touristy, is packed with old sailing ships, restaurants, and shops. Foodies will want to dine at the James Beard-nominated Charleston restaurant. Speaking of shopping, drive to the trendy Hampden neighborhood for cute boutiques and fun restaurants, or hit up Fells Point for an evening of bar-hopping. Day trips include scenic Annapolis, home of the U.S. Naval Academy, about a 20-minute drive. Washington, DC is approximately an hour by car.

[Flickr via tomsaint]

The most ridiculous hats of the Kentucky Derby and Oaks

One of the best parts about the Kentucky Derby is the fashion. Much like the exhaustively covered royal wedding, hats are the accessory du jour. While photos from tonight’s Kentucky Derby won’t start flooding in until later today, check out this great gallery of hats, hats, and more hats from the Kentucky Oaks, held last evening, where the nation’s top fillies competed for top honors. Plum Pretty narrowly edged out St. John’s River (ridden by a female jockey!) to take the $1 million prize.

Care for more images? Visit the official Kentucky Derby website.


All images reprinted from Kentucky and courtesy of Dan Dry, Kinetic, Sam English, Andrew Kung, Zymage and G. Raymond Schuhmann.]

Triple Crown 101: A guide for horse racing newcomers

Arguably the biggest event of the horse racing world takes place on Saturday, May 7 and kicks off a five week blitz of horse racing events and buzz around the country. Want to know the 101 on the Sport of Kings’ Triple Crown, or hope to visit one of the surrounding cities? We’ll be featuring coverage of the three cities that house the races as well as events for travelers wanting to celebrate horse racing’s greatest three days over the next few weeks.

Today, educate yourself on the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont with this Triple Crown 101.

{Want to know more about the Derby? Take a peek at what our friends over at AOL Travel have to say.}

What is the Triple Crown?
Taking place starting the first Saturday of each May, the Triple Crown races are made up of three Grade One stakes races for the country’s most elite Thoroughbred racehorses. All of the horses in the race are three years of age and have won qualifying races to enter. The goal? To have a single horse win the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes races, conducted over a five-week period in three different states.

[Flickr via Rennett Stowe]
No horse has won all three races since Affirmed in 1978, although a number of horses have won two out of three. Usually the first, second and third place winners of each race go on to compete in the final two of three “jewels,” but each race is also run as a standalone and can include new participants. The winning prize for each is $1 million.

Where does the Triple Crown take place?
The first race of the series, The Kentucky Derby or “Run for the Roses,” takes place this Saturday at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. Two weeks later, on May 23, The Preakness takes place in Baltimore at Pimlico. Three weeks after that, in Elmont, New York, The Belmont takes place on June 11 at Belmont Park.

What should I drink?
Each race has its own drink (and its own traditions). The classiest event of the series, the Derby, is known for its signature Mint Juleps. At The Preakness, drink Black Eyed Susans, a deadly concoction made with vodka, orange juice, light rum, ice, triple sec, lime juice and pineapple juice. This is appropriate for a race known equally for its crazy infield crowds as it is for its horse racing. Technically, the official drink of the Belmont is a whiskey concoction known as the Belmont Breeze, made with bourbon, sherry, orange juice, cranberry and mint.

What should I wear?
Much like the royal wedding, women should wear hats. Big hats, floppy hats, and we’re guessing you’ll see a ton of fascinators. The bigger the hat … the better. The Kentucky Derby is by far the most formal of the races, with the infield crowd at The Preakness barely surpassing the shirt and shoes rules. Belmont is a mixed bag, with people getting fancier as they advance to higher ticketing levels.

How do I celebrate?
Much like any sporting event, we’d suggest a betting pool. You can head to your local racetrack and place a bet, or host a fun themed events with a mandatory “best hat” entry. After last week’s wedding … we’re sure you’ll find some creative interpretations of that theme.

How do I pick a winner?
Pick your favorite name, your favorite color combination, or simply follow what the commentators are suggesting. That way, you’ll have someone to cheer for as they race down the home stretch. Remember that even though the main races themselves are the highlight of the day, the “race card” for the day will include as many as 12 races – so you’ll have plenty of time to learn the ropes.

The Triple Crown of Surfing: Reef Hawaiian Pro

The Triple Crown of Surfing got off to a mammoth start on Thursday with wave faces reaching over 20 feet for the Reef Hawaiian Pro at Ali’i Beach in Haleiwa. Each event in the Triple Crown undergoes a 12-day waiting period and usually takes 4-5 days to complete. Thursday and Friday saw big, clean conditions for both days, but the surf will wane over the next few days and the Men’s Final date and time is yet to be determined.

I headed to the North Shore on Friday for what was my first time attending a Triple Crown event, and I wasn’t disappointed. These surfing events are so packed with beach babes, film crews, and hot surfers that it is nearly impossible NOT to have a great time. I even saw Bethany Hamilton (the girl who lost her arm from a shark attack on Kauai), and she is MUCH taller than what you see in photos! She is at least six feet tall and is a statuesque young surfer girl.
As a spectator, however, it is best to go on the day of the final or on the day with the biggest waves. The waves were already backing off a bit (they were still well above overhead) and were a bit slow and crumbly for my viewing taste.

My good friend, Bernie Baker, is the contest coordinator and a judge for this and nearly all surfing events on Oahu, and was nice enough to pose with me in a photo between heats.

Surfing here in Hawaii is one of the many activities that happen year-round. Somewhere in these islands is a surfable wave. You just have to find it. There’s also a contest nearly every weekend — on the south shore of Oahu during the summer months, and on the North Shore during the winter. Check out Surf News Network for wave conditions on all islands, and the Vans Triple Crown website for livestream videos and other news about what is arguably the biggest annual event in the sport of surfing.