by Nila Do Simon | March 7, 2023

Florida’s Thoroughbred Race That Is Setting the Pace

Gulf Stream Park’s Florida Derby is one of horseracing’s most illustrious events and a must-see for every Floridian

A chestnut thoroughbred races past the ground-level seating section. Photography by Eclipse Sportswire.

Two of this year’s most exciting minutes in sports will take place here in Florida on April 1. Gulfstream Park’s Championship thoroughbred racing season continues with the Florida Derby, one of Florida’s legendary races in the lead-up to the Kentucky Derby. And what better way to enjoy the $1 million race than basking in the equestrian glory that is Gulfstream Park, South Florida's premier destination for world-class racing, entertainment and dining. 

Bettors and fans will feel the energy of the facility’s racetracks, the site of some of the nation’s most exciting Thoroughbred racing, including the Florida Derby, which celebrates its 72nd run this year. Few races, if any, have had the impact on the sport’s iconic Triple Crown as Gulfstream Park’s signature 1 1/8-mile Grade 1 event. In the first 71 Florida Derbies, 45 starters have gone on to win a remarkable 58 Triple Crown events. In addition, there have been 24 Kentucky Derby winners, 18 Preakness winners and 16 Belmont winners that stemmed from the Sunshine State race.  

Get into the action from any of the stadium’s outstanding seat selections found on its three levels, where live entertainment, betting stations and signature cocktails greet spectators at every corner. 

On the first floor, fans will get a ground-level perspective of the power generated by the sport the moment the gates fly open and the horses take off. The energy continues through the day with music by DJ Jared Cole.

Both riders and horses embrace after the Florida Derby. Photography by Meg Griffin.

Guests who want to elevate their experience can reserve an indoor or patio table at Ten Palms, the second-floor restaurant with direct views of the racetrack, while enjoying an extravagant buffet. Wager from the comfort of your seat as mobile tellers take your bets table-side, and watch the excitement of live racing and real-time simulcasts from around the world. Live entertainment at Ten Palms includes performances by premier saxophonist Jon Saxx.

For the ultimate Florida Derby experience, cheer your horse from one of the private suites located on the third level, where the high vantage point is only enhanced by the floor-to-ceiling windows framing the racetrack. Each suite, all of which are decadently appointed with plush furnishings, pastel pink pillows and green palm printed upholstery, includes a private balcony overlooking the finish line, a private restroom and TVs. 

Just outside the suites is the Flamingo Room, an event space with a glamorous central bar and pink pastel walls with hand-painted green fauna that offers a unique experience called Taste at the Track, Florida Derby. The food and wine tasting experience is packaged with exceptional views of the action, as well as unlimited samplings of food and wines.

White Abarrio and his jockey are escorted past the Gulfstream Park Casino. Photography by Lauren King.

The newest addition at Gulfstream Park is perhaps its most vibrant one. Carousel Club, an open-air gathering spot with a spacious deck perched atop the racetrack, is a 14,000-square-foot club that features a whimsical circus-like motif, thanks to a massive canopy tent that covers the entire space, with a Carousel Bar, featuring a refurbished, full-sized spinning carousel as the bar’s backdrop. In additon to the big-top touches, a grassy garden for lounging and lawn games, and pop-up food vendors like Spris Artisan Pizza, Los Altos Taqueria and La Traila Texas Craft Barbecue make this a must-see destination for every Floridian. Open until 3 a.m., Carousel Club will celebrate the Florida Derby with performances throughout the day by jazz artist and Lady Gaga’s Vegas bandleader Brian Newman, known for blending the jazz influences of Miles Davis and the American Songbook influences of George Gershwin with his love of Nirvana, Willie Nelson, Elliot Smith and The Police. 

“From a guest point of view, there’s no bad seat in house at Gulfstream Park to watch this exciting race,” says Gregory DiVincent, the park’s vice president of marketing. “Add to that, an array of entertainment options, food and beverage selections, and South Florida’s natural vibrancy, and Florida Derby will be one of the year’s most memorable sporting events.”