Win, place or show. No matter what your preference is, it’s a good bet that you’ll enjoy a day of racing at Berkeley’s Golden Gate Fields. One of the oldest race tracks in California, Golden Gate Fields has showcased thoroughbred horse racing since opening in 1941. From the seats in the grandstand to a table at the Turf Club, there is a view and experience for everyone.
Outside of the Alameda County Fair, I had never been to the horse races. Friends said it was fun, so I made Turf Club reservations and headed to Berkeley to check it out. Situated at the highest point in at Golden Gate Fields, the Turf Club is designed theater style with panoramic windows facing the race course. You’d be hard-pressed to find a bad view. With paneled walls, leather seats and portraits of past California Derby winners, the Turf Club showcases the majesty of horse racing. Private viewing screens are situated at every table, so you can watch replays of each race. Tellers will take your bets and servers will do their best to keep you in pub-style food and libations all day.
Post time was 12:45 pm and the day featured nine races in total, starting approximately every 30 minutes. This gave us just enough time to watch the horses as they paraded around before each race, study the race program (study is a term I’m using loosely as we had no idea what we were doing), and place our bets.
Sundays at Golden Gate Fields are dollar days, with admission, programs, beer and hot dogs all priced at one dollar each—a true bargain for a full day of entertainment. Sit in the grandstands, so you can experience the typical race track sounds, like the bugler calling the horses to post, the crowd cheering and hoofs racing to the finish. There are plenty of food and beverage choices available in the grandstands. If it gets cool or the wind kicks up, head to the clubhouse. Entry is $5.
The racing calendar is split into seasons. Winter and Spring meets end in mid-June. Summer meets start in August.
If you go: Find Golden Gate Fields in Berkeley at 1100 Eastshore Highway. Parking is available from both the Gilman and Buchanan Street exits. Race days are Thursday-Sunday. General admission is $6 for adults ($1 on Sunday). Children 17 and under are free every day. Club House admission is $10 ($5 on Sunday) and Turf Club admission is $12-$15. Gates open at 10am. The Turf Club opens at 11am. All levels are handicap accessible. Reservations are required for the Turf Club and a smart casual dress code, even for children, is enforced. A free shuttle is available from North Berkeley BART. For more information, visit goldengatefields.com.
The Three Basic Bets
Win: You win if your horse finishes first
Place: You win if your horse finishes first or second
Show: You win if your horse finishes first, second or third