And they're off ... again.
Horse racing season begins this weekend with, of course, the Kentucky Derby, but also new races at Arlington Park. The suburban track, 2200 W. Euclid Ave. in Arlington Heights, is featuring the World's Largest Derby Party (er, can someone verify that claim, please?), which features a simulcast of the famous Louisville race, plus a dozen live races here, with live music and, of course, a mint julep or two or 10. Gates open at 10 a.m. Saturday, and it's $6 to enter.
There's also the Hawthorne Race Course, 3501 S. Laramie on the Stickney/Cicero border, for — uh oh, another size claim — Chicago's biggest Kentucky Derby party, with live music, an outdoor barbecue and beer fest, a charity chili cookoff, and tents with dozens of high-definition TVs for watching Saturday's Run for the Roses. Admission ranges from $4 for the frills-free "infield" experience, up to the $50 VIP pass, which includes refreshments and even a commemorative mint-julep glass. Post time for the big race is about 5 p.m., but the fun goes all day at Hawthorne, which is celebrating 100 years of family-owned racing. Doors open at 8 a.m.; the first Churchill Downs race is at 9:30 and the party starts at 11.