We were inside the Flamingo Room at Gulfstream Park on Friday, Jan. 26, one day before hall-of-fame trainer Bob Baffert’s National Treasure triumphed in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup. It was also one day before Calvin Harris closed out the party with an early Saturday-evening DJ set. (If you’re on the Spectacle Circuit and have never danced to “We Found Love” at 7:47 p.m. while sparklers from LIV light up a racetrack, what are you even doing with your life?)
The Calvin Harris set was at the Carousel Club, one of the Pegasus areas where drinks flowed freely all day and VIPs used the 1/ST Bet app to wager as they got progressively more tipsy and wandered in and out of the ultra-exclusive Baccarat garden.
“It’s high energy,” Stronach said of an event whose 2024 edition attracted celebrities including Camila Cabello, Alix Earle and Rick Ross. “It just builds throughout the day. People are gambling. They’re having our curated cocktails. They’re socializing. They’re comparing their bets. We have a legacy sporting platform, so it’s about how to keep some of the traditions alive while modernizing it so that it’s a compelling experience and part of the pop-culture calendar here in Miami.”
So, of course, Stronach tapped dominant Miami scene-maker David Grutman (who’s built an empire after debuting LIV at Fontainebleau Miami Beach in 2008) to help set the festive tone.
The hands-on Groot Hospitality mogul was touching tables Saturday afternoon at the Flamingo Room, where we saw Miami luminaries like E11even operating partner Daniel Solomon and residential real estate broker Oren Alexander. Luxury headpiece queen Suzy Buckley Woodward (whose Shapoh hats were featured prominently on race day and at a pre-race fashion show at the Bal Harbour Shops) held court in the Flamingo Room with colorfully dressed society friends including Pearl Baker Katz, Sarah Feil Lewin and Lauren Coleman.
Guests in the Flamingo Room enjoyed bites from Grutman restaurants Papi Steak, Komodo, Gekkō, Swan and Casadonna.
“We’ve taken the hits from each restaurant.” Grutman, who worked alongside Palm Tree Crew at Pegasus, told Observer. “And now, over the last five years, I’ve opened a lot more restaurants. So it’s good to give guests more offerings.”
As these things turn out, the Miami elite have a large appetite for wagyu pastrami at a Papi Steak carving station, even after they’ve eaten sushi and pasta.
“David has been part of Pegasus since the beginning, and we work collaboratively,” Stronach said. “Flamingo’s got the jazz vibe. And then at the Carousel Club, we’re creating a day club.”
The night before the race, Stronach and Pegasus had a party at Casadonna, a restaurant that Grutman recently opened with Tao Group Hospitality’s Noah Tepperberg and Jason Strauss. At Casadonna, we circled the bash alongside Caprice Holdings COO Yavuz Pehlivanlar before spotting Tepperberg having dinner with assorted hospitality executives in a section next to the party. It was a reminder that Miami has no shortage of outsized restaurants. And many more big players, including Amazónico and Catch, are on the way.
Amazónico, a scene-dining sensation in Madrid and London that sort of resembles what Rainforest Cafe would be like if it were part of Electric Daisy Carnival, is working to open a gargantuan Brickell Avenue outpost right by Komodo, and a few blocks away from over-the-top Caprice restaurant Sexy Fish. Grutman told Observer that he often has discussions with other formidable operators about the pulse of Miami and beyond.
“We actually talk about which market is doing well, which market’s not doing well and who’s resonating in what market,” Grutman said. “There’s going to be a lot more seats in Miami. A lot more restaurateurs are coming here. I think the ones that really connect with the locals are the ones that are going to make it. What’s great is that a lot of the new restaurants here are very busy, and we’re still very busy as well.”
Not surprisingly, Grutman has also been thinking a lot about one of his next stops on the Spectacle Circuit. During Super Bowl week in Las Vegas, he’ll be at the new Fontainebleau Las Vegas casino-resort for events including a Komodo dinner he’s hosting with Shaquille O’Neal.
“Because it’s my first year of being open in Vegas, I want to make sure all my venues—Komodo, Papi Steak and LIV—are perfect,” Grutman said.
It was just after 3 p.m. when we spoke to Grutman in the Flamingo Room. There were more than two hours to go before 2023 Preakness winner National Treasure gave Baffert his third Pegasus victory. But the Flamingo Room was already buzzing with guests fueled by spritzes, Komodo Peking duck wraps and an inordinate amount of espresso martinis. One level below, guests were dancing at the Carousel Club in between placing their bets. Stronach was right. The energy was escalating. This was a day party in full.