Though the horse racing season at the Fair Grounds has ended, New Orleans has a larger-than-usual stake in this year’s Kentucky Derby. Local sports mogul Tom Benson’s racing stable GMB Racing owns two Derby contenders (Mo Tom and Tom’s Ready), while other horses have Louisiana connections. Locally, several restaurants and bars will celebrate with Derby parties. Another reason for day-drinking in a fun outfit? Well, twist my arm.
The functions listed below will help you toast the Derby in style. For novices, post time is 5:34 p.m. (CST) and the race lasts about two minutes, so resist the temptation to arrive fashionably late. Instead, get there early and settle into a cocktail or three.
Pat O’Brien’s: The piano bar and hurricane haven throws an annual Derby party, with half-price mint juleps till post time. Noon Saturday.
Derby on Fulton: In the vein of other Fulton Street block parties, Derby on Fulton returns with food, musical performances and champagne and bourbon vendors. Typical Derby attire (think Sunday hats and seersucker) is encouraged; several venues will offer race viewing. 1 p.m. Saturday.
Galatoire’s 33 Bar & Steak: The bar at the clubby steakhouse annex to Galatoire’s rolls out a menu of Derby-themed cocktails and plies guests with complimentary tea sandwiches. A race viewing is also on deck. Noon Saturday.
Timberlane Country Club: In Gretna, the country club hosts a Derby party with musical performances, a race viewing, and Derby outfit contests for best hat, best-dressed couple and best-dressed man. Tickets aren't cheap ($125) but include food and a premium open bar and bourbon bar; some proceeds benefit CASA Jefferson. 4 p.m. Saturday.
Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots: The track itself is unwinding from the racing season and from Jazz Fest, but marketing director Mark Conner points aspiring bettors to a list of area off-track betting facilities, where bets on the Derby can be placed on the days preceding and on the day of the race.
Revel: Just looking to get into the “spirit” of things? At Revel, local bartending sensei Chris McMillian’s mint julep is famous among those in the know. He's spoken at the Smithsonian Institution about the cocktail's history and has been spotted reciting a julep-related poem for bar patrons during its mixing. While there's no television for race viewing in the restaurant's dining room, co-owner Laura McMillian welcomes a Derby crowd.