Gulfstream Park is Anything But Right and Bad for Racing

Here is a rebuttal to a "What's Going on Here" editorial that ran in the Jan. 29 edition of The Blood-Horse. We felt it deserved its own post. -- Eric Mitchell

Before I started this letter, I had to give you the benefit of the doubt, so I detoured a short trip to Florida last weekend and spend the day at the 'new', considerably lesser, Gulfstream Park.

I had not been there for a full day of racing since the 'changeover', when the full brilliance of Mr. Stronach e.t al. was allowed to bloom under the hot Florida sun. After spending Donn Handicap day there,I am convinced not just Mr. Stronach, but your editorial writer, should be checked for sun stroke.

Now this comes from a horse owner/breeder/fan who loved the 'old' version of GP. In fact, one of my horse buddies from up north had annually renewed his box there, and at least once if not twice or three times a winter I and some  of his other mooching friends would find a way to get to Florida for a few days of great racing in relaxed, fan friendly confines. His box afforded an expansive view of the track as a whole, and just a few short steps away inside the clubhouse there were rows of pari-mutuel clerks and lots of machines (though never quite enough on the big days, like Fla. Derby), good hand served ice cream, and a view out the back windows to the paddock.

We froze on occasion, sweltered on others. But we always sat outside, in the fresh air, and enjoyed the place and the moment, thoroughly. There was the Breeder's Cup when I spent all morning trying to convince my buddies of the merits of Golden Missile; the dinner afterward that night where at the next table a fan had used his house number in the Classic's trifecta and cashed tens of thousands; the winner's circle photo the Florida Derby day when my former trainer got his first real inkling of what the Derby trail would be like for him and his horse; and of course, the Sunday afternoon when I sat there  alone and handicapped my usual $32 pic 6 ticket and cashed the only winner in the place for a considerable sum.  

So I was prejudiced, I admit, and wary of the changes I had heard about from many horse buds, including the former boxholder who admitted to being dismayed at what the casino/shopping developer had wrought on the race fans, but all of my horror, dismay and sadness was encapsulated in the frustrated gentleman who approached me just before the first race as I futilely searched the second floor to find a way to reach the few rows of seats which the 'new' GP had bestowed upon the fan base. He came up to me and in sheer exasperation said "Buddy, this is the first time I've been back in years; don't they have live racing here anymore? Is it just a casino and a simulcast parlor?"

I felt his pain. I tried to show him where the track still was, although from the 2nd floor you cannot access the few remaining outdoor seats unless you (1) go back downstairs, find a place called 'Silks" inside the casino/simulcast parlor,(2) buy a $35 ticket, (3) return back upstairs,(4) cross the entire width of the dining room, and(5) find an open door to your seats (somehow). Dr. Livingston, I presume? Even then, there are only a few hundred of these precious viewpoints allowed to us. The rest of the fans who turn out for a big day like the Donn? Does the phrase 'second class citizen:" strike a chord?

The heaps of praise dumped upon this sham of a racetrack by The Blood-Horse recently came back to me as I struggled to stand on tiptoes and actually see the last few yards of a race from the apron, where perhaps five hundred fans stood similarly frustrated (and I'm six foot two, so ex-jockeys don't stand a chance) by the cruel and thoughtless construction of the 'new' GP. Dozens of other fans crowded the rail near the 'Tiki Hut' bar, which affords a few shady spots in the Florida sun but again, no view of the track other than the rail at track level. And the rest of the crowd? They were jammed inside in over-heated, over-crowded simulcast areas in the dark, or hovered out by the paddock where the kindness of strangers had actually constructed a few rows of stadium type seats around the paddock, so that the horses could be viewed as they walked from their indoors saddling enclosure to the track. A lucky fan who was not answering nature's call or placing a bet (who would ever think of that?) at the exact moment when the equines paraded lavishly for a minute or two before their stunned eyes might actually see a horse and a jockey! What fun! For about thirty seconds, that is. Then the crowd in the paddock would look up at the TV screens and watch the races electronically, while some 200 feet away the actual race took place, but of course, there was no way to see it! 

This isn't Beulah Park in the winter, or Laurel Park in a blizzard. It's Gulfstream in the winter sun, and yet the real racing fan and the handicapper can't begin to comprehend the mess this once proud racetrack has become under the guise of misplaced 'new' ness. I have no idea where your writer might have spent HIS day, but all I saw Saturday were hundreds of horseplayers stumbling around, looking lost, unable to see the races live, rarely able to spot a horse in fact, amidst the granite and marble splendors supposedly, I guess, designed to emulate a Vegas casino,but with none of the warmth (yes, facetiously, he said).

No Gulfstream didn't get it right. Not even close. As someone who has been to four or five dozen racetracks, at least a dozen Breeder's Cups, a few Derby's, dozens of Belmont's and Travers', and almost every Preakness for twenty years, I could not let the lunacy of that article pass without comment after spending a horrible, defeated day at the new lavish, and totally fan-unfriendly, inefficient and troubling Gulfstream Park. For indeed if this is the future of horse racing, as a simulcast stage for those far away rather than a fan based sporting experience for those who choose to spend their day amidst the magnificent athletes which are our horse friends, then the NTRA, Jockey Club, and every other organization dedicated to the advancement of the sport, might as well close shop right now, because we have no future. There will be no new fans; there will be no fathers lifting their five year old daughters under the saddling elms so that they can see the horses better; there will be no sixteen year old sons learning from their dad the difference between a money and a record allowance race while they sit in the grandstand at Belmont; there will be no jockeys stopping to sign autographs on their mud splattered way back to the jock's lounge after a summer;'s thunderstorm race at the Spa, because there won't be any tracks like these, just simulcast studios like Gulfstream which, according to the industry's best magazine, is how it should be done in the future! Because, according to The Blood-Horse, Gulfstream got it "right"!

What a bleak, condescending,cynical and cold  future that is, if we are to believe The Blood-Horse's writer. But I just spent the better part of a day of my life NOT in the glorious relaxed winter's sun at a Florida palace of racing, but at a marble and granite enclosed television studio which treats the real fans like so many troubling ants at  picnic, and from down here amidst the sweating crowded throngs, we can just cast our eyes up toward the heavens and wonder WHO in the world decided this is the wave of the future? And as a breeder and owner on a small scale, but as a fan on a very large scale, I was saddened beyond belief when I left that evening, because I knew I had forever left a nice warm chunk of my past, and so many nice memories, behind forever. And in a few years, nobody in South Florida will even remember how wonderful it used to be.or apparently, care.

Did somebody say Hialeah might open again?

W.S. McGee

52 Comments

Leave a Comment:

Jaycee

Meanwhile, you have a NY trainer (Linda Rice) naming a horse We Need VLTs, since Video Lottery Terminals will rescue the purses in NY, although the track eyeball attendance probably won't increase any as everyone will bet electronically and only the big days will continue to remind folks of what used to be a wonderful spectator sport. Thanks for the memories Mr. McGee!

10 Feb 2011 6:07 PM
Keepastraightface

I applaude you for sharing your hair-raising experience at Gulfstream, but let's not forget that was just one day.  Also, this is a different era.  Gone were the days where it was paramount to be at track to place a wager on a live horse you had a hunch about.  Now you can do pretty much the same by opening an account online with a laptop or iPad, or even a local OTB.  Simulcasting affords us this convenience.  Furthermore, racetracks these days are more concerned about total handle than they are of the fan experience.  So for me speaking on behalf of all the online geeks, the quality of racing is and always should be first and foremost.

10 Feb 2011 8:01 PM
markinsac

Where ever Frank Strongarm goes, trouble and controversy follow.  The mission of any stadium or grandstand is to give the people a great view of the live action.  Gulfstream never read that mission.  It seems that the live product is just a side show to the money-making machines inside.  Goodbye Breeders Cup, South Florida.

10 Feb 2011 9:15 PM
Phil Rynn

You nailed it!  A friend of mine recently asked me if he should 1) go to Gulfstream Park to watch the Florida Derby, or 2) head down instead to Tampa Bay Downs to watch their Derby.  

Outside of the fact that UNCLE MO is likely to contest the Tampa Bay Derby, and will be a big draw, for me, it was a no-brainer: I told him "head south to Florida...get off of Highway 95 at Jacksonville or Cape Canaveral, resist the urge to go visit that ABOMINATION of a track being called Gulfsteam Park, and go see real horse racing at Tampa Bay Downs"!

I agree, if that is the "future", the sport is DOOMED.  At least, in the United States.

11 Feb 2011 12:10 AM
sad

Wow!  that's depressing, just today I was scouring the airlines for cheap flights because I have always wanted to see Gulfstream and the Florida Derby.  That changed my mind, I'm headed for Santa Anita and the Santa Anita Derby instead.  I have never placed a bet on-line, never will.  I have to see them in the paddock before I'll put my money on a horse.  Remember Life at Ten.

11 Feb 2011 5:41 AM
ERZ213

Nothing is sacred in this country anymore.  As young a nation as we are, we've chosen to tear down and destroy our early history to build parking lots and strip malls.  I haven't been to Gulfstream in years, but I remember it was beautiful.  I'm a full fledged race fan now and love going to the big name tracks and races to gaze upon these beautiful horse athletes and their equally athletic jockeys.  And I want to be able to see them clearly and take their pictures and savor the memories of their races.  Clearly everything that's done in this country anymore is about money; not about the citizens, or the fans, or even the animals.  It's the almighty dollar. It's sickening and shameful what we've become, and Gulfstream seems to be another testiment to that.  Somebody, somewhere, made some money off this atrocity, and someone else is continuing to make money.  Guess I'll scratch Gulfstream off my list of tracks to visit, again, and stick with the ones where I feel like a true race fan, where I can watch in awe as a beautiful thoroughbred racehorse walks by me, ready to do his job, and where I can sit back and watch a race in the Sport of Kings unfold before me.

11 Feb 2011 7:20 AM
Zaskar13

Why do people who make money in the real world think they know about their 'hobby'. Mr Stronach - you blew it!! and thanks Mr McGee for telling the real story!! As a horse player first, horse owner 2nd, I will never attend Gulfstream unless one of my steeds is running. Not a fun place to be for a real 'horse player' whose poor Gulfstream experiences you described perfectly!

11 Feb 2011 7:28 AM
richard hinell

As a horse owner and fan I agree that Gulstream Park is no wheres near the facility it was in the past. I could write a disertation on its short comings. I would  but there is not enough room for me to write. I would rather watch the races on a computer and even when I have a horse running they do nothing to accommodate the owner

11 Feb 2011 7:56 AM
chris k

that is right on, we used to have a box at the  old gulfstream, would come down in the winter 3-4 times, roof top bar gone, no where to watch the races, horrible screw up to former greatest place in the world to watch the races

11 Feb 2011 8:19 AM
Gary Young

If he tried to ruin a perfect grandstand and replace it with a disaster without a box section, he succeeded

11 Feb 2011 8:29 AM
cynthia

As a horse fan and South Florida resident, I can tell you that Gulfstream is now a casino that happens to have horse racing not the other way around.  The radio commericals talk about the casino experience and often don't even mention the horse racing.  Sad.

11 Feb 2011 8:30 AM
Delmar

It is about the horse, and Mr. Mcgee is right in that respect. I have not been to the new Gulfstream, so I cannot comment on that aspect, however as I look around most simulcast faciities, all I see is gray haired patrons, so we must applaud the effort to reach the younger set, and create a good atmosphere to do so. Everyone, especially officials of other racetracks, should visit Keeneland races, they have got it right!

11 Feb 2011 8:36 AM
aikenite

I haven't been to the "new" Gulfstream, but I suspect my take would be similar to this author.  I understand the need to downsize racing facilities/grandstands, but it seems they went overboard at GP.  Why not a 10K-15K outside seating capacity?  

11 Feb 2011 9:28 AM
Pierson's Ponies

I agree with this experience whole heartedly.

I used to go to FLA each Winter for a week just to go to Gulfstream and get away from the cold up North. I've been back once since the change because there isn't a good spot at the racetrack to actually see the races. And if I am not going to see the races live, I can stay at home watch them on the tv and bet on them while staying warm and save my money that I would ahve spent on airfare, hotels, etc. for the Summer and Saratoga where I can actually see a real live horse during the race and not just for 30 seconds in a walking ring.

11 Feb 2011 9:43 AM
The Oracle

If you want to watch live races the way they were intended, where the customer is king, you might want to consider Sunland Park Racetrack in New Mexico.  They appreciate their racing fans there and go to great lengths to prove it.

11 Feb 2011 10:29 AM
Don W

the old days of doing the fans a favor by letting them on the course are back again. racing will never learn

11 Feb 2011 10:32 AM
KennyG

Gulfstream Park was a good racetrack back in the day...but Hialeah Park was a great racetrack. Today Gulfstream is racino first, live horseracing second...a distant second. If you're planning a trip to Florida give Tampa Bay Downs a try a star on the rise. Hopefully politics and economics can converge and realize the importance of returning thoroughbred racing to the Queen of South Florida...Hialeah Park.  

11 Feb 2011 10:43 AM
Lmaris

So you would prefer the old days.  Wouldn't we all.  But those days are gone and aren't coming back.

If we want horse racing to exist in anything remotely approaching a form accessible to the common fan, the casino games are necessary evils.  

Note the author depends on the largess of his wealthy friend.  Without casino gaming, the sport would be restricted only to them.

Yes, I too long for the days gone by when horse racing drew more through the gate than any other sport in the country.  But if we expect the sport to survive, we must move on too.

11 Feb 2011 10:56 AM
ThoroFan

Mr. McGee

As a fan with similar experience, I was with you in the beginning. However, I believe you were overly critical of the structure and not aware of the fan-experience attitude the new management is trying to instill. If it works we will all be winners. If not, I "second your emotion." But give the CEO Steve Calabro and his team a chance to get it right. They are really trying. We visited Gulfstream as you did and saw a different picture. Read our comments:www.thorofan.com/.../csNews.cgi and www.thorofan.com/.../csNews.cgi

Thanks

11 Feb 2011 11:08 AM
SplashmakesaPoint

I do think that Gulfstream is becoming a powerful spot for Derby hopefuls.

11 Feb 2011 11:24 AM
MikeM

I recently spent a few hours at GSP and was amazed at how that place was designed. They really blew it. I fully realize that something has to be done to attract new fans but turning the place into a casino and shopping mall with little or no thought put into horse racing is not the way. The mall area was like a ghost town and I was there on Sunshine Millions day.

11 Feb 2011 11:38 AM
Big Lou

You are so right.Unless you are lucky enough of knowing somebody and get a invitation to the private sky boxes that are plush,plush and i was lucky enough to get an invitation to one by a fellow horseowner.Ther you have everything and then more.But like you said ntry nto get a regular seat.I am older and trying to get up those stairs was not the best for me.You are so right on your comments.Congratulations.

11 Feb 2011 11:49 AM
Susan from VA

Well, I won't be going there.  For me, racing is about he horses - I always have to look at the horses in the paddock before I place my bets, and I prefer to see live horses run as opposed to on video screens.  Actually, I am not a big fan of gambling (never been to a casino, never plan to), but I do place wagers to "support" racing.

11 Feb 2011 12:18 PM
Truly Splendid

I did not know how spoiled I was growing up in So Cal until I moved to So Florida.  After routinely attending races at SA, HP, DM, I thought that was how all the tracks were.  Ha!  After one horrible experience at Gulfstream I cannot bring myself to go back, even when sorely tempted to see some quality horses.  NO seating anywhere, NO good views of the track,  inconvenient parking, food??? -  the list goes on.  What a shame that the management has decided to completely alienate the casual bettors and fans.  My experience with the So Cal tracks tells me it is possible to accommodate both serious players and fans.

11 Feb 2011 12:58 PM
Dennis Farrell

I agree with the writer's comments.  I attended the races at Gulfstream a couple of years ago during a week day program, and was surprised that there really is no grandstand at the facility.  The only place to watch the horses live was on the track apron which gave you a very limited perspective of the race experience.  A big THUMBS DOWN !

11 Feb 2011 1:16 PM
Fran Loszynski

I'm sorry I have to disagree with you. My first visit to Florida one of the highlights was Gulfstream. Park.  "I want to live there!" And someday with the mall, the condos you will. I love the track, it is situated differently but it keeps you guessing who is coming around the bend. The window clerks were friendly and helpful and with the Florida sun beating down, awesome. I was there when it started to rain and stayed outside at the rail watching my race. Inside where the horses entered with the nightime waterfall and lights was beautiful.  If I could afford it I would live there, eat there, watch the races, and shop! Gulfstream is not only a wonderful racetrack but a city in itself. I had to write this because I will never forget that day.

11 Feb 2011 1:30 PM
Convene

Doesn't sound as if "live" fans are particularly welcome, does it! All the howling about empty grandstands seems moot if, as it seems, there aren't going to be any grandstands to fill. The new electronic age, with its simulcasts and ADWs, has its merits and allows wagering on races from coast to coast on the same day - but live racing is what makes the pulse pound and the heart soar. Taking it away from us sure does sound like a giant bound backwards!

11 Feb 2011 3:53 PM
quarterhossgal

Having attended Gulfstream several years ago I am disheartened by what sounds like the end of great horse racing there. I, too, go to see the great athletes not to play the slots. If I can't see the horses in the paddock my betting is limited. Let's hope the rest of the nation's tracks won't make this kind of improvement!

11 Feb 2011 3:59 PM
Reed Galinac

While I largely agree with Mr. McGee, I won't go so far as to say that a day (or even two!) spent at the new GP is a total bust. No matter what it is now, it has no equal.  For better or worse, it is now the most unique "racetrack facility" in America.  For that reason alone it's worth seeing and judging for yourself.  And it's South Florida during my Pennsylvania winter. Nuff said.  When that breeze blows through those neat open-air areas of the track, the new GP takes on an exotic air not afforded by any other track I've experienced.  And the paddock, which Mr. McGee largely ignores, is absolutely gorgeous.  It's the most satisfying thing they did with the track -- although they still butched it up by walling it in and making it so claustrophobic.

I do have my own hate list about the new GP.  I can't stand the shopping mall (comprised largley of the white-washed windows of empty stores when I was there) which provides part of the backdrop for the paddock and the non-existent "front side."  They butted the monstrosity so close up to the track that it blots out the sun!  It's shadow makes the place feel "colder", and that should never be in a vacationer's paradise!  You can't even see the track from the road, and the artsy "horses" out front are so ambiguous I wasn't sure the gate was a track entrance.  I had been to the old GP a dozen times, and I drove right by the damned thing because they hid the track behind the mall!  

If you're not prepared to park your butt in a simulcast seat all day and PAY 10 bucks for th privilege (which I can do for free here at home at Penn National), then there's really no one good "place" to be for the horseplayer.  You're always in someone's way, or always being disturbed by someone.  You'll find yourself walking through a line of people waiting for pizza.  You compete for a spot in the paddock.  You compete for a spot to watch the horses enter the track, or compete for a place on the apron to watch the race live.  Then it's a rush back to whatever small piece of turf you've staked out(in the "clubhouse" turn sandbox with the tattooed tweens!?) to start the process over again.  Even on Sunshine Millions Saturday (not exactly a FL Derby crowd), I could never relax -- never felt at ease.  No matter where I was in the facility (you can't use the word "grandstand" because there isn't one), I always felt compelled to keep moving.  Like no other track I've been to (and that's a bunch, baby), it has no "inside," other than the simulcast theatre, dining room or card/slots areas.  I take that back, there is some crazy great-room I stumbled into that looked like they were holding a tapestry contest and auctioning off props from the movie Troy. There was a stage in there, too, but no Beiber tribute band or anything going on.  Don't know WHAT that room was about...

Still, they had horses there, and I could get a bet off.  And when I felt like it, I could get pretty close to my heroes.  And that made it a pretty good day!

11 Feb 2011 5:03 PM
bn

Hear, hear!

11 Feb 2011 6:51 PM
John T

I must confess I am from the old school and I miss the days when Hialeah Park was the premier track

in Florida racing and the Flamingo

Stakes was the race that anybody with a serious Kentucky Derby horse

considered.When I close my eyes I

can still see horses like Spectecular Bid,Alydar,Seattle Slew,and Foolish Pleasure winning it.And in years before that horses

like Buckpasser,Northern Dancer,Bold Ruler,Nashua,and Citation.Rest in peace Flamingo Stakes you may be gone but you certainly done your part in American racing history.

11 Feb 2011 7:58 PM
Paseana

I've never been to Gulfstream, so I haven't experienced either the "before" or the "after", but everything I've heard about the new facility pretty much supports what's been said here.

The really bone-headed move they made though, in my opinion, is laying the new main track down with a configuration on which they can't run 8-1/2 furlong dirt races!  And this is traditionally one of the biggest Triple Crown prep venues in the Country!  I truly wonder who it was that had that particular brain cramp!

It's little wonder that since the new oval went in, really good Derby prospects like Bluegrass Cat, Street Sense, Any Given Saturday, War Pass, and now Uncle Mo are high-tailing it to Tampa! Bay Downs

12 Feb 2011 12:17 AM
Cal Gal

Oh, how sad.  I won't make that trip to Gulfstream now, that I've been dreaming about, hoping to seeone or more of my favorite horses race.  For me, it's about the horses, not the casinos.  For the developer, it's just about the $$, clearly.  THanks for the warning!

12 Feb 2011 4:39 PM
BigBrownPost20

Don't knock the VLT's buddy, that crutch is keeping horseracing afloat.  Tampa wouldn't be there if it wasn't for it's poker room either!

You old farts need to get out of the past.  Nobody watches the races anyway...the action is too far away.  

13 Feb 2011 4:26 AM
Larry Ensor

Across town sits one of the most beautiful race tracks in America if not the world, Hialeah. Such a shame..

13 Feb 2011 7:28 AM
former fan

The big tracks are making the on track experience unpleasant for fans, horse owners and trainers alike. In fact I'm convinced they'll only be happy when they can studio produce the racing product in complete privacy.

13 Feb 2011 10:10 AM
Maurice

This piece is spot-on. I've been to many, many tracks but never one so ill-suited to watch live racing. The facility is fine for watching on monitors inside, but the simulcast coordination is pitiful. Yesterday there were 3 TVs side by side showing AQU. Often they don't even show sister tracks SA, GG and LRL in heavily trafficed areas. As far as the assertion above that this place is a casino, it isn't even well-designed for that. If I recall correctly, the main casino area was originally meant to be a seafood restaurant, hence the massive aquarium!

13 Feb 2011 3:08 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Now that's what I call a rebuttal !!! Really a tremendous piece of writing and insight. And a lot of really great comments especially ERZ213. Thanks for making my day with this dose of reality which is what we need more of to try to reverse the direction this glorious sport has been taking.

13 Feb 2011 6:09 PM
John T

Larry Enzor

 Well said,it,s a total shame to

North American racing that such a

beautiful track as Hialeah Park with so much racing history to support it is idle to the great turf and dirt racing that used to take place there.One can only ask

what kind of madness is this.

13 Feb 2011 7:46 PM
Landaluce66

What's sad is that it could've been a great idea - I go several times a season and some days 'bundle' my racing with  shopping and a mani-pedi.  For non stakes days it's fine, you can get $15 dollar seat (which is robbery for the view you get - pay $2 general admission at Hollywood Park, Santa Anita or Oaklawn and you get way much more).  Any big day and it's $35 a seat and don't buy them online - talk to them on the phone to make sure you aren't sitting right behind a concrete poll.  Florida Derby day last year I did not get a seat so hung out at the back of the saddling area.  Absolutely nowhere to sit. I did ok but was next to a woman calling her family who obviously hadn't been there before -telling them not to come, it was horrible - and she was right.  I wonder how many people go out for the big races and never return.......  Calder may be run down, but at least you can see the horses and the track from just about anywhere (for free).

13 Feb 2011 8:05 PM
Aluminaut

The madness that swoops down in a dream and refuses to leave.

Thanks for the rebuttal.  I read the original blog and just couldn't bring myself to comment.  Glad it was great for you Fran, but it's not my cup of tea.

13 Feb 2011 9:15 PM
Randy K.

As a grandstand denizen of Churchill Downs it sure sounds as though Gulfstream went overboard in trying to satisfy the younger generation. Upgrading on track otbs and facilities is fine but why not also make sure that there are good and spacious views of the paddock and track. I hadn't been to Turfway since its days as Latonia and I was disappointed there that the vast majority of fans were inside playing the OTB races instead of enjoying the sun and live racing a few steps away! Win or lose there are few things more enjoyable to me that sitting outside on a nice day with your friends, comparing your day's picks, and drinking a few cold brews while you watch the horses run.

14 Feb 2011 6:00 AM
Crusher

Big Brown you are off the mark. Tampa averages 4 million a day handle. The poker room does 4 million a yr. They need the poker room like we need more Stronach tracks.

14 Feb 2011 9:05 AM
easygoer1322

I just came back north last week from my Florida visit.

I intended to go to Gulstream several times during my visit. However, after going once on Sunshine Millions day, I found that to be enough.

The place feels claustrophobic and you have a really hard time moving around, seeing the horses, or watching the race.

Instead of going back, I went to Pompano Park a few times for harness racing.

It was fun, the racing was good, and I had a great time. Most of the people there seemed to be having a good time as well.

The track facilities could use some sprucing up, but, it felt like being at a real racetrack.

There's a simulcast center with a small grandstand next door in the casino as well.  

14 Feb 2011 2:29 PM
Draynay

My experience was just the opposite at Gulfstream.  We sat at a table on the 2nd floor outside and ate shrimp and crab cakes while sipping on fine wine.  I didn't even have to leave my table.  I was able to wager from my table and collect my money from the table and I had a wonderful view of the entire track.

14 Feb 2011 4:55 PM
Sea The Stars

Hialeah....Those were the days!.

14 Feb 2011 6:18 PM
walter

Guess us old-timers cannot accept change. VTL's will last as long as senior's hang around. A.C. is fading and real racing is left to a few venues Saratoga, Keenland few days at Churchill and California. Even Tampa is showing its patron age as attendance drops. But they can't take away those memories. Esp. Hialeah.

15 Feb 2011 9:48 AM
HorseLover

I am a Gulfstream fan. But I must agree with Eric. The New does not come close to the Old. I visited the Old Gulfstream with my father. It was special my " favorite place". The large grandstands with the sunshine beaming down were the best - great view , plenty of room and access to everything. Had much anticipation of what was to come during the construction of the New. Instantly when I walked into the new Park, I was sad. Where was the grandstand? It was suppose to be better but it wasn't . Not nearly. So must all the negative comments written by Eric and others are true. But for some reason I keep coming back. The sunshine is still there. I buy reserved seats ranging from $10 to $150 and once in a while sit inside and enjoy the delicious buffet. Yes it is difficult to get around on Stakes race days but not so much on other days. Can't imagine anyone thinks the New is better than the Old but I would be the last to tell anyone not to come. Still has great horses,trainers,jockeys and weather. Eric have a few extra tickets for the FOY if you want to make another trip.

15 Feb 2011 12:00 PM
BEAUTY

I WENT TO THE CASINO DELI.THE CASHIER WAS VERY HAPPY,PROFESSIONAL,AND CONSIDERATE,SHE ASKED ME DID I WANT ANYTHING,SHE MADE ME FEEL WELCOME.HER NAME IS CARLA.I WILL RETURN BACK JUST 2 EAT A CORNBEEF SANDWHICH ON RYE TOAST AGAIN.

16 Feb 2011 3:42 PM
Brad

Living in South Florida and attending Gulfstream on many occasions every year, I feel Mr. McGee's pain. But I also have found ways around many of the problems that he notes.

First of all, the outside seating is free during the week. It can be accessed through the Ten Palms dining room on the second floor. You can also view the horses in the walking ring from the second floor balcony just outside the entrance to Ten Palms. The view is excellent and only a short walk from the outside seating. The walking ring is one of the best features of the new track, though it does seem a bit confining on busy days.

On weekends they do charge $10 for a seat outside, more on BIG stakes days. There is no admission charge, and no charge for parking, both of which were in place at the old facility.

Do I miss the clubhouse boxes that offered sweeping views of the track? Yes. Do I miss the 18 finish line seats I used to own for the Florida Derby every year? Absolutely! But on every other racing day that huge grandstand was mostly empty. Even on it's best day, the old Gulfstream couldn't hold a candle to Hialeah, but times change, and not always for the bettor.

The dirt track configuration issue is a complete mystery to me, but the 180 foot wide turf course which enables more turf racing to be carded every year is a big plus.

I'll confess, when the new building first went up I hated it. Now it has grown on me considerably. The restaurants in the village offer good food, and on both occasions I have ventured over to them this year they have been well attended. The buffet in Ten Palms has largely been done away with, but the menu offerings are fairly priced, and quite good.

You can get a great hot dog at the first floor stand next to the walking ring. Right next to it there is a raw bar which is excellent. Christine Lee's has a third floor restaurant, and also offers an outside pavilion in the breezeway.

There are large bars both in the breezeway, and in Ten Palms. There are automated machines, and live tellers scattered throughout the facility on all floors.

It's not perfect, but it certainly is far superior to the Calder experience. Don't even get me started on that place!

17 Feb 2011 10:06 AM
les

when i go to Belmont with my cousin a few times a year it is basically empty during the week.that i understand because of the competition with all other forms of gambling now available. But what I dont get is the people in the NYRA not doing anything about even cleaning up the facility. The mens room in back of the the finish line has not been painted for about 50 years at least and the doors on the toilet stalls are all broken. all the fixtures are about 50 years old. But when you watch the belmont stakes on television you have no idea what a dump this place is. As a horse fan for over 50 years i would rather go to the racing casino and be treated like a human being. By the way i go to Keeneland every spring and i can tell you if you dropped your soup on the bathroom floor you can eat it off the floor. They get it not thr bluebloods in the turf and field room who never go down to see what is going on below.

20 Feb 2011 1:39 PM
Lady Kafca

Wow, I could never imagine ever going to a racetrack and NOT be able to see the thoroughbreds walk by me. In fact if I place a bet it's because I walked down to the paddock to check out the horse LIVE first.  I'd like them to build a baseball stadium with a view like this and see what happens!

27 Feb 2011 11:44 PM

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