Leg 2 The Sunshine State

After staring down three Nor'Easters in as many weeks, I was ready to get away. Luckily the traffic snarl from earlier in the week abated and traveling went off without a hitch. Finally going to make that trip to Florida that derailed me last year. I'll even make it to Hialeah, even if I can't see any racing. Will be going to Tampa Bay Down, Gulfstream Park, Pompano Park and throw in a dog track in Sarasota for good measure.  

Turf ParadiseTampa Bay Golf

The trip started out early Saturday morning with a quick flight to Tampa. From there it was off to Tampa Bay Downs. Arrived a little early at the track, the weather was beautiful, sunny mid seventies. Tampa  Bay, only has a poker room no casino, so I tried something different to amuse myself for a while.

I parked the car and instead of heading for the track I went to hit a bucket of golf balls. I don't if I was more excited about hitting some balls, or seeing live racing, it had been a while. Tampa Bay Downs has a practice golf facility on the grounds, who needs slot machines.

After I got a blister I figured I better head for the track and concentrate on the ponies. Tampa Bay is a little old school, three bucks to get in. My first stop was the Metro Deli, I was hungry after hitting those golf balls. There were ten races on the card, five were for maidens, about half were on the turf. Back when they still raced in New England, Tampa Bay and Rockingham Park were kind of a circuit, so it was pretty common to find jockeys from there riding here, but today the only name I recognized was Gary Wales and he only had one mount. He finished third on a 43-1 shot, but this isn't the track for chasing longshots. The great day went by quickly, the last race made a liar out of me a $73.00 bomb, good thing I didn't needed a bailer. It was around six when I walked out, too late to hit another bucket, so off to Sarasota. 

It's a couple of hours down I-75 to Sarasota, which puts me two hours closer to Miami in the morning. When I got to Sarasota Kennel Club, the races were already started, no big deal I was more interested in seeing the place than wagering. I don't think I'll get rich playing the pony's, but I know I'll never get rich playing the dogs. Dog racing is a dying sport heading for extinction, so it's no wonder this place is old and worn, but it still better maintained then most old harness tracks. Stayed for a couple of races, but my timing was off I was a day late for fifty cent Friday and a day early for the Mutt Derby, where people can run their own dogs, I would love to do that with mine! Off to the hotel, long day(s) tomorrow.

Turf ParadiseFlamingos

It's off early on Sunday, as I head for my favorite stretch of road, Alligator Alley. Stopped at the first boat launch, but not much going on, so I pulled in to the Miccosukee Service Plaza, the best place to spot a gator. It was disappointing, only found a coffee, no gators, to early I guess. Well off to Hialeah, arrived at the track about ten. I guess I should call it what it really is, Hialeah Casino. The track is still there and maintained, the buildings and grounds are well cared for, but no horse racing. Unless the law changes there probably will never be racing here again. At least one thing is still here, the Flamingo's. OK, up the road to Gulfstream.

Turf ParadisePegasus

I guess if I called Hialeah, what it was, I have to do the same for Gulfstream. It's more like Gulfstream City, what a change from the last time I was here. From the giant Pegasus statue, to the beautiful saddling area, to the meticulous track and ground, Stronach's last stand is first class all the way. Surprisingly free parking and admission, made the day more enjoyable, thirteen races on the card, seven were for maidens. The Ortiz boys were here, but they weren't doing as well as up north, looks like the locals were schooling them a bit. As I was leaving I couldn't help comparing  Gulfstream to the pythons in the Everglades. They have overrun the swamp and Gulfstream has swallowed up all the competitors in South Florida. Time for a change of pace.

I arrive at my last stop just before post time, no giant statue here. Pompano Park is your typical time worn harness track. That's not a criticism, it's just how it is, harness racing is also a dying game. As I look around I don't see any millennials, maybe their in the casino, but I doubt that too. Anyway, twelve races on the card, with a couple of amateur trots. Wally Hennessey, who seems like he's been around forever, started the night in typical harness racing style, getting nosed at the wire at 1-5. He atoned by bringing in a couple of odds on winners and even had a winner that paid $15.20. Had to leave after the eighth race as the worst part of the trip was here.

Trying to save a few bucks, no hotel tonight, had a five hour ride back to Tampa. Stopped off at a rest area for forty winks, cell phones are great alarm clocks, best invention ever. Got to the airport with time to spare, had no trouble sleeping on the plane.   

  Miles Cost Air-Fare Lodging Days Tracks
Leg-2 616 308.00 260.00 136.00 1 3
Total 1466 913.00 820.00 506.00 5 8

It seemed the second leg would bring the cost per track down, but it there wasn't much difference between leg 1 at $477 per track and leg 2 at $440 per track.

April will probably bring the cost down, because there's nowhere to go. Looks like it wont be until mid May before a worthwhile trip can be put together.