Fab Hats and Festive Fun at Square Peg’s Run for the Roses

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Sailboats are usually my passion, but one day a year my attention turns to horses – and hats. That day is Derby Day of course, the first Saturday in May when that most iconic of American horse races takes place, the Kentucky Derby.

This year like last, I celebrated the occasion at Run for the Roses, the Square Peg Foundation’s annual fundraiser at Menlo Circus Club.  It’s a perfect blend of exhibition polo, derby viewing and fashion.

If you are a hat fancier like me, it’s a can’t miss event and even more so as its for a good cause.  Square Peg is the West Coast flagship center for HorseBoy Work, a groundbreaking technique for working with the autistic children. “Changing the world one child and one rescued horse at a time,” this wonderful charity allows special needs kids to learn to ride at their own pace while sheltering animals in need of another chance.


Arriving at the Menlo Circus Polo Field the tents hint at the festive fun to come. I heard the voice Master of Ceremonies Peter Finch, KGO’s lifestyle reporter. Finch has a special connection with Square Peg, his family is one of the organization’s participants. This Paulick Report video explains more about Square Peg and features Finch’s son Davis, click here.


Once there, I begin with a glass of Gloria Ferrer Private Cuvee Brut. Bubbly is always a great choice, and I enjoyed the apple notes and crispness of the private cuvee.



This year I made sure to allow a little extra time to peruse the auction and raffle items. I noted a festive serigraph donated by the LeRoy Neiman Foundation for the live auction among other cool things. There was a bevy of baskets for raffle and it was fun watching people deciding where to allocate their tickets.


The baskets were calling my name, each one included a bottle of wine. There were so many interesting themes: a Half Moon Bay getaway, Burlingame shopping spree, GoPro Camera and Breeders Cup as well as one aptly titled “No Need to Wine” including seven bottles! It was time to make a strategic gaming move.  All of my tickets in in one bag or try for a few?  I chose three diverse themes and threw in my tickets.


the very stylish calypso st. barth crew, love the hat!


The clothing sponsor this year was Calypso St. Barth, that bastion of elegant boho chic, which was hosting a private shopping party. I enjoyed perusing the feminine, flowing frocks and festive jewelry as well as imaginative things for the home.



About that time my friends arrived and we received our table assignment; tables are named after past Kentucky Derby winners.  We were seated at Silver Charm, the 1997 winner. A tasty buffet lunch followed, I particularly enjoyed the selection of salads and the pulled pork sandwich. We people watched as we nibbled.









My attention focused on the fashion that surrounded us, there were fabulous hats everywhere.  This year fascinators were plentiful and appealing, I think the Dutchess of Cambridge effect was in full effect – which I wholeheartedly support.


I was particularly taken with the head-to-toe looks of the ever stylish Victoria and Nicole. Victoria wore: Zara, dress; bag Chanel, shoes Dolce Vita; sunglasses Balmain, bracelets Hermes. On Nicole: Ted Baker, dress; shoes and bag Louis Vuitton; sunglasses Dior. They both completed their looks with hats from Something Special.


Other than the wonderful hats, my favorite accessory of the day was Victoria’s Hermes Grand Apparat bracelets. I’m quite a fan of the design, I have the scarf. I’m not the only one, while photographing Victoria’s bracelets another woman showed us her vintage Grand Apparat. I love how Hermes rereleases beloved classic designs.


Last year my Hermes Tenues et Couvertures bracelets inspired my outfit, you can read the post here. This year it was all about my hat, I let the black and tan and classic design guide me. It led to some vintage pieces in my collection: a Burberry cuff (circa 2000), David Yurman necklace and bracelet and a favorite Hermes watch.


With the polo match about to start we were treated to a little Polo 101 while the polo players posed for photos with fans. It was interesting to learn for polo ponies female mares are preferred over male geldings.


Then the match began. It was fun to watch the beautiful and nimble ponies charge up and down the field under the masterful direction of the players, mallets swinging as they roared by. Someone next to me remarked what a fast game polo is. Indeed, it was time for the Champagne Divot Stomp before we knew it. The divot stomp is a traditional halftime break where fans take to the field to stomp down the small patches of turf torn up by the quick starts, turns and stops of the ponies.


the divot stomp is a great photo opportunity

We enjoyed a glass of bubbly as we walked the field, it was great to see everyone having such a good time.




Then it was back to polo for chukkurs three and four. After the match it was time for fashion prizes, with categories like best hat, outfit most representative of the day, and best child hat as well as the raffle drawing. I was thrilled to learn I won the Breeders Cup Basket. While all the contents were appealing I was especially excited about the silk scarf and tie in a beautiful shade of purple. Vineyard Vines made them did a lovely job with the design. I often wear scarves as belts and have been looking for something in just that hue. I can’t wait to try it.


There short break before the televised Kentucky Derby was a great chance to finish my fashion tour, there were just too many fab hats yet to be seen.




joell and darius dunlap, the founders of square peg ranch







the sisters of perpetual indulgence with a new friend

I was happy to run into the some of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, an order of queer nuns who devote themselves to community service. Then often volunteer with charity events and with the Sisters there you know its a happening one.


the kentucky derby about to start

We headed to tent for what’s known as the most exciting two minutes in sports. I think we were all cheering for California Chrome, who was bred here in California. It’s quite unusual for a CA thoroughbred to win a race of the Triple Crown, so when it happened the crowd cheered enthusiastically.


I was so happy California Chrome won. He had been so serious underestimated by the racing establishment, it was gratifying to watch his decisive win. I couldn’t help but see the parallel – how with the love and attention of this wonderful charity the children and rescued animals of Square Peg are also winning.

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