February 2, 2011

Golden Gate Kicks Off Preakness 5.5 For Some

     The road to the Kentucky Derby, and possibly a $5.5 million bonus in the Preakness, leads through Golden Gate Fields for CashCall Futurity winner Comma To The Top.  Thanks to a program started this year by MI Developments that included several tracks they operate, one path to the bonus starts with the Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby. To be clear, you can win the Kentucky Derby, but that has nothing to do with the $5.5 million.(To read more about Preakness 5.5 click here - http://www.preakness.com/race-info/preakness-55 )
     As much of the country is socked in from up to three feet of snow and Derby Fever is percolating in many race fans, a trip to the February 12th race could be an opportunity to escape the snow and see some great racing.
    While associated with San Francisco because of the iconic bridge that bears its name, Golden Gate Fields is actually in Berkeley, CA and is only 10 miles from the airport in Oakland. It is 26 miles from the airport in San Francisco.
     Situated along the shoreline of San Franscisco Bay, Golden Gate has a one-mile synthetic track main oval.  Opened in 1941, it has hosted the likes of legendary Lost In The Fog, who is now buried in the infield along with another racing great, Silky Sullivan.  John Henry still holds the track record on the 9/10-mile turf course at the distance of 1 3/8-miles.
     Golden Gate also has several eating venues including the Turf Club which looks out onto the track.  If you visit, keep in mind the dress code, where visitors are reminded – “We strongly discourage:  sweat pants/suits, T-shirts, baseball hats and thong style shoes.  Guests who arrive in shorts of any style, tank tops (sleeveless shirts), or clothing with offensive logos will be denied access into the Turf Club.”
     Once you leave the track, you are only minutes from the epicenter of early ‘70s Hippie-dom. So maybe you don’t have to stop at the tie-dye stand at the corner of Telegraph and Bancroft, but there are plenty of unique shops in Berkeley and great local-flavor restaurants like Cheeseboard Pizza.
    Now, lets get you to the track. Most airlines still require at least seven days prior booking to get a reasonable airfare. So, if this is something journey you want to undertake, act fast. Checks of flights via Southwest and other major airlines from several cities in the Midwest and Northeast reveal flights can still be had for around $300.  If you visit Priceline, you can probably bid on an even cheaper rate.
     Checks of hotels in the Berkeley area reveal numerous above average to excellent hotels ranging in price from $70-$100 a night. The Clarion Hotel Downtown Oakland is an option that can be had for $79 a night. 
       Bottom line, if you have cabin fever or it has just been too long since you saw races run live, in person, Golden Gate Fields is an unexpected option and most likely a delightful surprise.


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