My dad loves horseracing so for Father’s Day, I took him to one of his favorite tracks…Santa Anita Park. It’s located just outside of Pasadena (36 miles from LAX) and has gorgeous panoramic views of the San Gabriel Mountains.
As invited guests, we were set up for a comped stay in the air conditioned Frontrunner restaurant with a table against the window near the finish line. My dad really enjoyed it except his eyes were bothering him (he’s 88) so he couldn’t see well enough to handicap the races. I brought my wife and nine-month-old son along as well and they had fun too; after getting the car from the Turf Club valet my wife said, “Now, this is the way to go to the races!”
Fast forward a couple of weeks and every day since, my dad keeps telling me his eyes are miraculously better and he would love to go back to Santa Anita track before it closes for the season on July 4 (it reopens September 29). I believe most of the horses, jockeys and workers go down to San Diego’s Del Mar Track and opening day (July 19) is known as one of Southern California’s biggest parties. FYI: Natalie and I went to Opening Day at Del Mar in 2015 and I took my dad the year before for his birthday.
When the Santa Anita PR team called to say they had a suite available for closing day, it was too good an opportunity to turn down. Normally, I would rather be on the beach playing volleyball with my friends and family on the Fourth of July but after my skin cancer scare, I try to avoid peak hours in the sun. Besides, I knew my dad would be thrilled and my wife would be game since a suite would be even better than a table at Frontrunner.
I must admit, I didn’t have high expectations of the suites. I guess I just didn’t know what to expect, so I was more than pleasantly surprised when we arrived. First of all, our suite was plush. It had indoor and outdoor seating and was large enough to hold twenty people (they also have larger suites available). There’s air conditioning, a mini fridge stocked with soda and bottled water, power outlets, Wi-Fi, and seven TVs. You can control the channels and volume though they are all horseracing and sports-related channels, with the exception of CNN.
There are daily racing programs available as well as a private automated betting machine that’s almost too easy to use: just put in your cash or voucher, choose the race track (you can bet any track in the U.S., hence all the TVs), select your race, type of bet and how much. It gives you a voucher for change, which can be cashed by a live teller on down the hall (I never had to wait in line). They even offer a betting concierge who was a professional handicapper, though my dad picked more winners than he did so you might want to invite my dad along. I’m sure he would go and be the life of the party!
Guests can order food in advance for a large party or order off the menu like we did (chicken tacos and a turkey club) from the food and beverage attendant. There’s a service button on the wall; just flick the switch and your server will come check on you.
Suite guests get free valet parking at the Turf Club so they have a private entrance and it’s super quick and easy to get in and out of your car. As an added bonus, suite guests can even name a race after someone so if we had planned in advance we could have named a race after my dad.
Even if you’re not into horseracing (my hand is up), you’ll still have a great time, given the views, food and action. And suite guests even get a personal paddock tour and can watch a race from the Winner’s Circle!
I never thought I would say this, but I can’t wait to go back!
Suite prices range from $1,000 to $4,500, depending on the day and size (they have 20-, 30- or 40-person suites).