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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Business Up At Gulfstream

- On-track business is up at Gulfstream over last year, and rather significantly.

Through the first 15 days of the 2007 session (Jan. 3-21) ontrack handle on live racing was $11.9 million, up 32 percent from the same period a year ago, while the handle on incoming simulcast signals during live racing was up 90 percent from 2006. Overall, the total ontrack handle is $22.3 million, compared with $14.5 million from last year, an increase of nearly 54 percent. [Daily Racing Form]
Of course, the building was only half open at the beginning of last year's meeting, and a lot of poor publicity about the lack of seating and the high prices probably kept people away. They've stopped announcing the attendance figures, which are increasingly irrelevant these days anyway, but apparently people are either getting used to the new facility, or just learning to accept what is now there rather than lamenting what once was.

I came across this article on the Major site; it's an in-depth review of the facilities. The general theme seems to be that it's a bit cramped for horseplayers, even the one part of the track that the writer compares to the old.
Before we leave the second level, will again note the circular promenade, overlooking the paddock. Good viewing -- and its attractiveness reminded of the congenial people-gathering areas inherent in the old structure - especially the walkway leading from the paddock to the front apron. But, alas, on weekends, this area gets extremely crowded, slowing navigation times considerably. The cramped quarters make many pine for the Good Old Days.
I suppose that someday I'll return to Gulfstream. I would go with friends in the mid-to-late 70's, at a time when I was still primarily a harness guy, and would look forward to nights at Pompano Park. I remember seeing Prince Thou Art beat Foolish Pleasure in the Florida Derby in 1975. Then after probably nearly 20 years of not going, I started going by myself for four days each February. I'd take an early Friday morning flight, go straight from the airport to the track, and stay through the Monday races. It was funny how I'd remembered all the little nooks and crannies as if I'd never left. The one caveat was that I had to leave early on Saturday to drive to West Palm Beach and have dinner with my grandfather (who, at age 103, no longer is able to spend the winter there); I missed Read the Footnotes' Fountain of Youth win that last year, in 2004.

I never really said a proper goodbye, because I didn't realize the magnitude of the destruction Stronach had in mind. I figured, OK, they'll tear down the building and put up a new one, but I had no idea it meant goodbye to the backyard area, which always cleared out during the running of each race (except for the weekend concert-goers); it was a place where everyone really paid attention. And I couldn't imagine that it meant no more afternoons spent with the likes of Survivor, Three Dog Night, and America.

Now, my favorite hotel isn't even there anymore. There was a great Holiday Inn right on the nearby beach strip amidst the high rise condos and the newly reopened Diplomat. I could literally roll out of bed onto the beach, spend several hours basking in the sun, and then make the five minute drive (not counting the construction around the drawbridge) to the track. But the place was damaged beyond repair by Hurricane Wilma, and closed permanently in favor of, no doubt, another high rise condo. My friend Eileen actually bought one of the beds at a dispersal auction for her late mom's apartment.

So next time I go - and I imagine it won't take me 20 years this time - it will be a new hotel, and a completely different track. The quality of the racing remains the only attraction to me. Right now, that's not enough for me to make the trip. But I suppose I'll get over it eventually.

- Lava Man is set for the Millions Turf San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino Stakes, and Doug O'Neill says: "I feel more confident now than I did at this time last year." He told the LA Times that he still feels that the six-year old gelding can win outside of California, but a trip to Dubai, where he's nominated to the $5 million Duty Free, doesn't sound like it's in the cards.
"There's a little dream about taking him to Dubai and trying the turf over there, but it probably isn't a realistic thing....We'll see what happens on Saturday. I think the dream, aside from Dubai, is to try and have a similar campaign as we did in 2006."


Anonymous said...

I think you are possibly being over romantic on your Gulfstream recollections. While I have not vistied the new Racino, I was at the old track (and temporary set up for that matter, for High Fly's Fla. Derby Win). The last couple of years I felt like the place had out lived its usefullness and needed a major upgrade. Attendance was down and it felt too much like an old, old, old, boys club. I will wait to pass judgement until I get down this year for a weekend. Unless the game changes it won't survive.

Anonymous said...

"Unless the game changes it won't survive."

Respectfully, the game has changed. Just look at the Saratoga harness experience. Nothing could have more dead than harness racing in upstate NY in the eighties and nineties. Admittedly, they will never approach the Saturday night crowds it once drew when the only "exotic" bet was the daily double, but the infusion of racino money has reinvigorated that game. No doubt, revenues from slots will do the same for Gulfstream, PA, and maybe some day, downstate NY thoroughbred racing. And factor in Gulfstream's appeal as the warmest winter simulcast option on the east coast, I'd say the future is pretty bright. Of course, no one may want to go there because it's too crowded (sorry, Yogi).

Anonymous said...

Hey LS - I went to school at Union College in Schenectady in the mid-70's and spent mucho time at Saratoga Harness. Besides the early double being the only exotic, remember when they guaranteed that there would be at least one two-minute mile lest we get our admission money back? I'm planning to post on the expansion going on there a bit later.

And I must respectfully disagree with 30for60 regarding Gulfstream. I split my time between the clubhouse backyard area surrounding the paddock, and the outdoor bar/restaurant up on the second floor of the clubhouse; and it was sheer heaven to me. I agree that the place needed some sprucing up, but never felt the need for it to be torn down and replaced. Perhaps I am too romantic....after all, the third floor clubhouse at the Big A is like nirvana to me too!

Anonymous said...

Update on Discreet Cat from article: “We’ve got plenty of options,” Crisford said, relating that in addition to the $6 million World Cup at 2,000 meters, the son of Forestry also has been made eligible for the $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen (UAE-I), a sprint over 1,200 meters, and the $1-million Godolphin Mile (UAE-II). “But the plan at the moment is to prepare him for the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I).” God, how I hope that's true. I'm still terrified that in October we're going to speculating about whether Commentator is healthy enough to challenge Discreet Cat in the Breeder's Cup Dirt Mile (that is one of the new races right?) - Alex