If you are not at the Kentucky Derby, the next best thing is a Derby-themed event in the Horse Capital of the World®. With the 150th running of the Run for the Roses, there are even more events to choose from locally and we’ve broken them down by type to make it easier to find a perfect fit.

LARGE, FAMILY FRIENDLY – The World Equestrian Center’s Festivals of Speed Kentucky Derby automotive showcase in Ocala provides more horsepower to the world’s most legendary horse race, featuring more than 200 exotic, classic and muscle cars. Guests will experience automotive designs by Porsche, Ferrari, Rolls-Royce, Lamborghini, Aston-Martin, BMW, Mercedes, and McLaren. The festivities from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. include a Derby hat contest and best Derby attire are encouraged for this family friendly occasion. The big race will be on the jumbo screens on the main concourse starting at 5 p.m. The race goes off at 6:57 p.m. Special offerings available from the WEC food truck, restaurants and sip the classic cocktails at the onsite cash bars until 7:30 p.m.

From 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., WEC is hosting a Kentucky Derby Hat Party on the terrace at The Equestrian Hotel. The Hat Party features chef-attended action stations serving a fresh variety of small plates inspired by the Bluegrass state. The included bar will serve beer, wine, Mint Juleps and two other Derby Day specialty cocktails;, and a cash bar is available with upgrade options. Tickets include choice of one Derby hat or a Woodford bourbon bottle per person (first-come, first-serve). Visit to purchase tickets.

VERY VIP – The Ocala Royal Dames for Cancer Research are hosting their Derby event at GoldMark Farm in the Triple Crown museum at 5290 NW 130th Avenue near Ocala from noon to 3 p.m. Tickets are $50 per person and include Derby style drinks and edibles, with an RSVP by May 1 to Bern Paraiso at 352-216-5493. Farm owner Janelle and her husband Paul Bulmahn welcome guests to experience the pinnacle of horse racing achievement in the museum nestled within the enchanting GoldMark Farm. 

SHORT DRIVE – Black Prong Resort Bar and Grill is hosting a Derby Soiree from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. for the 150th Run for the Roses and they encourage guests to dress in Derby finest for an afternoon of Woodford mint juleps, hors d’oeuvres, chances to win contest, Derby games, race day fun and race day coverage. Tickets are $45 (includes one drink) and available on EventBrite. Dinner will be available for purchase. The Nagles, the owners of Black Prong, also have connections to horses in the race through their training center Oak Ridge with Just a Touch and Sierra Leone.

CASUAL GOLF RESORT VIBE – All the televisions will on Derby at Stone Creek Golf Club in Ocala for its celebration from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday, May 4 which includes a traditional Derby menu of fried green tomatoes, deviled eggs, Kentucky hot brown sliders and the official drink, mint julep. Reservations are not required but are accepted and the clubhouse offers seating both indoors and outdoors. Nicole Bring is available for more information at 352-291-2140.

SHEEP DERBY – Only in Ocala would there be a Derby Day Lamb Sale offered by Sacred Silence Farm at 6775 NW 21st Street in Ocala. Viewing of lambs will be from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and the live auction kicks off at 1 p.m. While the event invitation shows sheep in fancy Kentucky Derby hats, we’re pretty sure the 35 lambs will be selling sans the hats, but there will be lambs for all budgets. Guests who wear a Derby Day hat will receive a prize. Lawn chairs are recommended, and lunch is available onsite.

PHILANTHROPY – The Rotary Club of Dade City and The Rotary Club of Wesley Chapel are hosting Hats & Horses, a Kentucky Derby Party benefiting Caterpillars to Butterflies Charitable Foundation, Inc., a local non-profit helping foster children achieve transformation, creativity, and their endless potential, at Waller Ranch, 17307 Powerline Road in Dade City. Tickets include Southern cuisine and an open bar, and you guessed it, mint juleps. The race will be shown live and the day includes a live band, casino games, contests for best hat and best dressed, a silent auction, and a live auction. Tickets are $100 in advance/ $125 at the door.  For info call (352) 427-0332 or email

The Harbor Hills Ladies Charity is hosting a fundraiser from 12:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. with food, juleps, a hat contest, raffles, games, and faux betting with live racing on the big screen at the Grand Oaks Resort at 3000 Marion County Road in Weirsdale.

HORSES INCLUDED – The Sun Country Trail Blazers of Ocala are hosting a Kentucky Derby campout from May 3 to May 5 at the Seminole Wind Ranch at 29248 Fl-44 in Eustis, for more information, call 954-263-3964. Bring your own horse. 

The Ocala Polo Club is hosting a “Get Derby With It” Kentucky Derby party at 5 p.m. with a sunset polo match. Guests can bring their own faire, tailgate, or purchase from local food trucks onsite at the Florida Horse Park at 11008 S HWY 475 in Ocala. Fido on a lease is welcome also. Gates open one hour prior to play.  Derby themed events on tap.

BETTING – Ocala BetS located at 1781 SW  60th Avenue in Ocala is open 12:15 p.m. with wagering available on the Derby and more horse racing simulcasts from across the country, displayed on more than 100 televisions, including a 10 x 16 ft. LED screen. A fast-casual menu and full bar service is available. Advance wagering is available on Friday, May 3 for the Derby also. The venues opens 10 a.m. and closes at 4 a.m.

Return to the April 30 issue of Wire to Wire