vintage photo of The Derby

History Of The Derby

In every era, fans delight to eat in restaurants of great athletes and celebrities. When Woolf purchased The Derby in 1938, he was at the top of his game. Racing had no competition from Super Bowls and television hype. It dominated much public radio interest and many daily newsprint inches. Even movie-house newsreels reported the preparation and conclusion of high stakes and match races. The $100,000 Stakes Race, the Santa Anita Handicap, was the richest prize in racing at the time. All these elements made Woolf a legend, and The Derby was where he could hold court away from the track. Who wouldn't want to be served in the eatery of one of the most recognized athletes of the day?

George Woolf envisioned his Derby Restaurant to be a gathering place for jockeys and race fans. It was planned as a source of retirement earnings that would allow him to reflect back on his hall of fame career. Each wall, adorned with memorabilia of prestigious horses and races, would cause diners to revisit glorious wagers and harrowing photo finishes. This vision has been fulfilled by the Sturniolo Family, who not only serve the food that delights customers, but also preserve the atmosphere made great by its connection to the sport of kings.

1938 was also the same year Seabiscuit became a thoroughbred legend. Imagine 10,000 fans arriving to watch - not a competitive race- but a simple workout. That was the fame of Seabiscuit. When he ran a race, crowds filled the stands and infields, President's cabinet meetings were delayed until radio broadcasts finished and the horse recorded more newspaper type inches than either FDR or Hitler. Horseracing existed before George Woolf and Seabiscuit, and The Derby restaurant has a history that precedes them, as well. Hudson M. Proctor was The Derby's founder.