Derby Day set for Saturday at horse park

CONYERS -- Want to watch the Kentucky Derby but can't spring for a ticket to Louisville?

You can watch the race this year from Georgia International Horse Park while also helping out a good cause. The Junior Committee of the Shepherd Center, a facility in Atlanta that specializes in treatment of brain and spinal cord injuries, is hosting the 31st Annual Derby Day Saturday. Gates are open from 2-10 p.m. with proceeds to benefit Shepherd Center's Recreation Therapy Department, which helps patients get back to the hobbies they enjoyed before their injuries, or learn new activities to improve quality of life. Patients also learn how to adapt to traveling, grocery shopping, cooking and other activities with their disabilities.

The Recreation Therapy program costs $1.6 million to operate each year, and is dependent on donations, said Cara Roxland, special events coordinator for Shepherd Center Foundation.

That's where Derby Day comes in, typically drawing more than 1,000 attendees and hundreds of sponsors each year. The event will include a live broadcast of the Kentucky Derby, food and beverages, live and silent auctions, live music, games and drawings.

"It's a good time for a great cause," Roxland said.

Raffle tickets can be purchased for a chance to win a trip to Savannah. The live and silent auctions include 300 items, such as restaurant and spa visits, Braves tickets, a ski trip to Steamboat Springs, Colo., four trips to a NASCAR race, including a walk through the pit with a Michael Waltrip representative, an in-home dinner cooked by a private chef and more.

While some folks like to dress up like they do at Churchill Downs, "heels are not advised," said Roxland, noting that they'll sink into the ground if it's been raining.

Tickets are $60 in advance and can be purchased at www.derbyday.com, or for $70 at the door. Georgia International Horse Park is located at 1996 Centennial Olympic Parkway in Conyers.