Edited by Rachel Jones | Photographs from Hazel Rodriguez of Hazel Photographers

Sound the trumpet and find your best hat — horse racing season is upon us! Enjoy Triple Crown entertaining for the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes without leaving the comforts of your home. Host the ultimate race day party by whipping up some cocktails and delicious bites to complement the race on the screen. Check out  these recipes that reflect each race’s location and traditions.

Kentucky Derby
May 5, 2018
Churchill Downs, Louisville, KY

Adena Beef Slider

3 ounces of Adena Farms Grass-Fed, Grass-Finished Beef
1 brioche slider roll
1 ounce ketchup
1 ounce mustard
1 filet hydroponic bibb lettuce
1 slice Roma tomato
4 ounces of Truffle Fries
Salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Form the beef into a slider, and season with salt and pepper.
  2. On a hot grill, cook slider on both sides for about 2 minutes or until desired internal temperature is reached.
  3. Remove from grill and set aside. Toast bun on grill for about 10 seconds on each side.
  4. On top bun, place lettuce filet and Roma tomato slice. Place burger on bottom bun and assemble both sides together.
  5. Serve with Truffle Fries, ketchup, and mustard.

Truffle Fries

4 ounces of French fries
2 teaspoons white truffle oil
2 ounces Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon chopped parsley


  1. Set deep fryer to 350ºF and cook fries until golden.
  2. In a small mixing bowl, toss fries with truffle oil, Parmesan cheese, and parsley.

Cowboy Rib-Eye

16-ounce cowboy rib-eye steak, cleaned
5 pieces of grilled asparagus
4 ounces of roasted fingerling potatoes
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 ounces brown sauce
2 ounces béarnaise


  1. Season cowboy steak with salt and pepper, and set aside.
  2. Set grill on high. Grill steak for about 3 1/2 minutes on each side for medium temperature.
  3. Remove steak from grill, and let rest for about 5 minutes.
  4. Plate roasted potatoes and grilled asparagus with the steak on top.
  5. Serve with béarnaise and brown sauce.

Grilled Asparagus

5 asparagus spears
1 teaspoon oil
1 tablespoon melted butter
Salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Bring water to a boil and add asparagus. Cook for 3 minutes until tender.
  2. Rub asparagus with oil, salt, and pepper. Put on hot grill and cook until char marks form.
  3. Remove from grill, and brush with butter.

Roasted fingerling Potatoes

4 ounces of halved fingerling potatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
Salt and pepper, to taste


  1. In a medium mixing bowl, combine potatoes, oil, rosemary, salt, and pepper until seasoning is evenly spread.
  2. Set oven to 350ºF, and cook potatoes 15-20 minutes until fork tender.
  3. Remove from oven and set aside.

Preakness Stakes
May 19, 2018
Pimlico Race Course, Baltimore, MD

Mango Crab Salad

1 pound of jumbo lump Crab Meat
1 mango, diced small
1 ounce mesclun lettuce mix
6 slices of blood orange
6 slices of lemon


  1. In a medium bowl, toss mesclun mix with the diced mango and Crab Meat.
  2. Place tossed lettuce, mango, and crab meat on a salad plate and place fruit throughout salad.
  3. Drizzle salad with mango vinaigrette.

Mango Vinaigrette

1 cup fresh mango, diced
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
Salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Combine first 5 ingredients in a blender and puree. 
  2. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Maryland Crab Cake

1 pound of jumbo lump crab meat
1/4 cup red bell pepper, diced small
1 1/2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 egg
2 teaspoons chopped curly parsley
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


  1. In a medium bowl, combine crab meat, red bell pepper, parsley, mayonnaise, egg, salt, and pepper until mixed evenly.
  2. Evenly divide mixture into 3-ounce portions and form into cakes.
  3. In a hot non-stick pan with oil, sear crab cakes on each side until crispy.

Belmont Stakes
June 9, 2018
Belmont Park, New York, NY

Lobster Picatta

1 cup flour
2 whole eggs
6 ounces of lobster tail meat
3 cloves chopped garlic
1/4 cup capers
1 tablespoon roux
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup chablis blanc
1/4 cup lobster stock
5 ounces of angel hair pasta


  1. Place flour in one small bowl. Place eggs in a separate bowl and scramble.
  2. Cut the lobster tail meat into 2-ounce pieces.
  3. Coat the lobster meat in flour, then egg, then cook in a medium pan with oil.
  4. In the same pan, add garlic and cook until light brown.
  5. Add capers and sauté with garlic for 1 minute.
  6. Add roux and lemon juice to pan until smoothed out.
  7. Add chablis blanc and cook for about 1 minute.
  8. Add lobster stock, lower heat, and cook for 2 minutes.
  9. Place cooked pasta in bowl and serve with sauce and lobster on top.

About the Stronach Group

Tamir Shanel, executive vice president of Food and Beverage at The Stronach Group, is part of The Stronach Group’s ongoing commitment to developing unparalleled experiences across its properties. The Stronach Group modernizes and reignites the sport of thoroughbred horse racing with six of the most successful and historic thoroughbred race tracks across North America.

The Stronach Group also hosts two of the biggest horse races in the world: The Preakness Stakes and the Pegasus World Cup Invitational at Gulfstream Park. The Preakness Stakes, held at the venerable Pimlico Fields, is part of the Triple Crown of horse racing. Pimlico is one of the oldest and most historic tracks in the country, having hosted the head-to-head race between Seabiscuit and War Admiral in 1938, which is considered the greatest sporting event in American history. The Pegasus World Cup Invitational is the world’s richest horse race with a purse of $16,000,000.

Altogether, The Stronach Group’s race tracks, restaurants, and special event venues host well over one million patrons every year. And they’re able to do so with world-class service and amenities, and a world-class team.

Wolfgang Von Wieser, Corporate Executive Chef, Stronach Group; Tamir Shanel, Executive Vice President, Food and Beverage, Stronach Group; Giovanny Arias, Director of Culinary Operations, Gulfstream Park; and Amy Sanchez, Food and Beverage Supervisor

Signature Cocktails

Kentucky Derby

Mint Julep
Mint sprigs, sugar, water, crushed ice, and bourbon

Preakness stakes

Black-eyed Susan
Orange and pineapple juice, vodka, light rum, and orange liqueur

Belmont Stakes

Belmont Jewel
Bourbon, lemonade, pomegranate juice, and lemon peel

About Xpressbet

How do you pick your Kentucky Derby horse? For some, it’s all in the horse’s name. For others, the journey to choosing a horse involves meticulously poring over stacks of stats and trends. But no matter how you pick your horse, one thing is for certain — Pittsburgh-based Xpressbet is the simple and easy way to bet a few bucks on your pick on Derby Day and any other time you get a hot tip. 

At Xpressbet, the excitement of a day at the track is combined with the simplicity and convenience of online shopping. Xpressbet provides legal and secure wagering on more than 300 of the world’s premier racetracks, covering everything from Churchill Downs and Santa Anita Park to the UK’s prestigious Royal Ascot meeting and the star-studded Dubai World Cup in the United Arab Emirates. 

With Xpressbet, you can pick your horse, make your bets, watch live races, and get paid without leaving home. In fact, with its revolutionary new mobile wagering application, you can now bet any race from any place — the office, gym, supermarket, or anywhere between.    

We chatted with Xpressbet President and Pittsburgh native Ron Luniewski to learn more about the company’s history and Pittsburgh connection.

WHIRL: How did Xpressbet come to be? Give us the history.

Ron Luniewski: I have worked in the technology sector throughout my career and spent 14 years working for Ross Perot’s Electronic Data Systems (EDS), one of the premier tech services providers in North America. I started as a software engineer there and ultimately ended up managing the group that developed the first round of websites for General Motors, including Chevrolet, GMC, and Buick. 

I left EDS and relocated to California and was the fifth person in a start-up company called Youbet, which was one of the first US-based online horse racing wagering companies. At that time, the internet was in its relative infancy and there was no such thing as ‘online wagering.’ During the time I was there, we launched the product that established the current market. We ultimately took the company public, and I became CEO in 2001. 

During my time at Youbet, an Austrian-born businessman named Frank Stronach was beginning to heavily invest in US racing properties. Mr. Stronach is an entrepreneur and self-made success story, having founded Magna International, one of North America’s leading automobile parts manufacturers, in 1957.

Mr. Stronach purchased more than a dozen of North America’s premier racetracks, including Santa Anita Park (Los Angeles, CA), Gulfstream Park (Miami, FL), Pimlico Race Course (Baltimore, MD), Golden Gate Fields (San Francisco, CA) and The Meadows (Washington, PA).

WHIRL: You’re headquartered at The Meadows in Washington, Pa. Can you tell us how the business grew from the Meadows location?

RL: In 2002, The Stronach Group contacted me and offered me the opportunity to move from California to Pittsburgh and transition their account wagering company, Call-A-Bet, from a local telephone betting service to a national powerhouse that would rival Youbet. I jumped at the opportunity, knowing a move to Pittsburgh was great for my family, which at the time included four young children.

I showed up at The Meadows and from there, the rest is history. Through the tireless efforts of our dedicated team, Xpressbet has grown from a small phone betting company to a respected global leader in wagering, with more than $1 billion wagered in 2017.

Being based in Pittsburgh, we’ve had the privilege of utilizing Pittsburgh’s deep pool of talented, hard-working and passionate professionals. Many of our approximately 135 full and part-time team members were born, raised and educated in the Pittsburgh-area, and I take great pride in seeing them start families of their own here, so the cycle may continue for future generations.

WHIRL: What’s next for Xpressbet? What are the future plans or goals? 

RL: Our primary goal and focus for the future is to continue growing the sport of horse racing globally.  Our parent company, The Stronach Group, is heavily invested in the long-term success of live horse racing and everything we do at Xpressbet is in support of their philosophy. We will look to achieve that goal by continuing to provide consumers an unmatched online wagering experience.   

Belinda Stronach, Frank Stronach, and Seal. Photograph from Mark Sullivan/Getty Images

In addition to its core business of offering its customers wagering on top thoroughbred and harness races, Xpressbet also operates several successful subsidiaries:

  • XB SELECT: A “white-glove” online wagering service for high-volume customers.
  • XB Net: A business-to-business firm that brings wagering on North American racing to partners in the UK, Australia, Spain, Turkey, Germany and more.
  • XBTV: A digital online horse racing network, specializing in race coverage and arming consumers with the information and picks they need to win.

Horse Racing Glossary

Before you can host a Triple Crown party, you need to brush up on your horse racing terminology! Check out our cheat sheet, here:

  • Auction: Many horses are sold as weanlings, yearlings, or two-year-olds at public auction. In 2006, Coolmore paid a record $16 million for a two-year-old racehorse named The Green Monkey. He never won a race.
  • Exacta: A wager in which you must pick the first two finishers of a race in the correct order. Since 2000, the average winning Kentucky Derby Exacta has paid $1,001 for a $2 bet.
  • Jockey: The person who rides the horse in a race. Horses ridden by this year’s leading jockey Jose Ortiz, earned more than $27 million!   
  • Mint Julep: The traditional cocktail of the Kentucky Derby. Create your own using bourbon whisky, mint leaves, sugar, water, and ice.
  • Trainer: The person hired to oversee the daily care of a racehorse.
  • Triple Crown: A series of races consisting of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes. Since 1919, just 12 horses — most recently, American Pharoah in 2015 — have won all three.
  • Win Bet: The simplest bet in horse racing. Make your wager and get paid if your horse crosses the finish line first. 
  • Workout: Most elite horses only race every five or six weeks. To stay in shape between races, horses generally have a strenuous exercise, or workout, once a week. 

Dustin Fabian, Director of Communications and Senior Racing Analyst

Beverly Jochynek, Executive Vice President, XB Select

Kerry Lee Gatten, Senior Manager, XB International; Ron Luniewski, Xpressbet President

Anthony Driscoll, Manager, XB Product and Insights

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