Jan 18 2015

Gulfstream Park – Like Visiting A Tropical Resort

GP Main Toteboard

This will be my 4th consecutive year returning to Gulfstream Park race track in Hallandale Beach, Florida.  Every year the length of my stay increases.  After looking at some of my pictures and hearing a story, maybe you’ll understand why.

The first thing very unique about Gulfstream Park, when compared to other race tracks, is the openness to the whole facility.  There are no admission gates, and you can enter and exit as you please.  Behind the race track is an entire “village” of stores, restaurants, and pubs.  Click here to read more about the village, including a directory and photos.

One of the fringe benefits to the GP village is allowing visitors (like my daughter) who need a break from the racing action during the day, to escape to someplace like the frozen yogurt store (like my daughter), and return unimpeded for more racing action. Or, if you’re so inclined, you can pop into a restaurant or pub for a cold draft while on a break. There are many choices. For me, I save these activities until the end of the racing day.
GP Hut Stadium

Front side at the track has the look and feel of a tropical resort, complete with beach sand, huts, and tiki bars.  There are TV screens mounted with video feeds from not only Gulfstream Park, but from other tracks around the country.

A couple years ago they added a very large tiki “stadium” (pictured to the side) near the top of the stretch that is a terrific place to watch the horses make their final charge down the lane.  It is also a great place to sit immediately after a race, to get a close up view of the horses walking by on their way to the paddock for the next race.

Gulfstream Paddock

The paddock area is very unique, seemingly the center of construction in the middle of the entire facility.  It has substantial seating in a horseshoe shape around the walking ring, where horses can be observed close up after they are saddled in the covered saddling area adjacent to the seating.  In the center of the walking ring is a fountain, that after dark is illuminated with brilliantly colored lights.

All of the seating in the paddock, huts, stadium, and tiki bars is free.  There are reserved seats available on certain days in the grandstand/clubhouse area.  But, to be honest, I find the free seating much more enjoyable and usually find myself hopping around from one location to another during the course of the day.

Mucho Macho Man with Gary Stevens

Last year I scored a personal double on Sunshine Millions Day when I snapped my favorite photo of the year, Mucho Macho Man with Gary Stevens on board.  That was the first half of the double.

After the race, I went to the jockey’s room and with help of a jockey’s wife, I was able to get Gary Stevens to sign a print of a Mucho Macho Man photo that I had brought with me to the track that day.

Now hanging prominently in my living room, along with the photos of my wife and two children, is the signed print of Mucho Macho Man.  Ka Ching!

Mucho Macho Man Signed Print

Now, for a story.  In April of 2011, I returned for my second visit of the year to Gulfstream in order to see the Grade 1, Florida Derby.  It was loaded with horses that were and would become very recognizable names: To Honor and Serve, Soldat, Flashpoint, and Stay Thirsty among them.  In addition to them were Dialed In, winner of the Holy Bull Stakes in January at GP and a little known horse at the time, Shackleford, who had only won a Maiden and Allowance race to that point.

I was accompanied at the track by an old friend, who is predominantly a Win-Only bettor.  For the entire day, we were pooling our money and jointly selecting one horse per race and making a $100 win bet.  I did not have a strong opinion on the Derby, so I told him to make the choice.  He selected Dialed In.  Sitting next to us was an elderly gentleman, whom we had been ‘BS’ing with most of the day.  He said he was betting on Roman’s horse, Shackleford … who happened to be 68-1.  He was a big fan of trainer Dale Romans.  Here is the video replay, it’s worth the watch.

At the end of the race, I was obviously happy that our horse had won. I congratulated the Shackleford bettor on his great selection, figuring he must have cashed something on him. He handed me a $75 Win ticket.  I asked him, “Have you ever heard of a Place bet?”  He told us that he only makes Win wagers.  My old friend shook his hand and said, “You’re my kind of horseplayer!”  We all laughed, and moved on to the next race.

Check back, I will have many more pictures and stories from Gulfstream Park in the coming weeks.

Neal Headshot2
By Neal Benoit

10 comments on “Gulfstream Park – Like Visiting A Tropical Resort

  1. Neal, Sitting in grey and gloomy Pennsylvania, I await your reports and stories from GP. Like ST in baseball, the winter GP meet means the Triple Crown trail and the rest of the racing calendar will be getting cranked up for another year. Enjoy the warm weather. If you can find out anything from the ownership group down there about plans for the MJC properties in Maryland and the Preakness, that would be great.

  2. Say what you want about Stronach, but he wanted to change the nature of race tracks, and Gulfstream is at least an initial point on his journey. Beats the hell out of shitholes like Parx and Pimlico.

    • I normally don’t comment, but had to in this case. What you are all seeing is the front side of the track. It looks pretty. On the backside there are bathroom stalls without doors or toilet seats.
      -Someone who works back there.

      • Thanks for reminding those of us who only see the “pretty” side of the track, that there are people like you working on the backside, making all of this possible for us. Troubling to hear your description of the bathroom conditions.

  3. I too liked sitting in that tiki stadium, but the TVs no longer work, and you can’t hear the call of the race from there anymore. Why would they let that run down?

    • I just discovered that myself this weekend. I’m very disappointed in that, and it certainly takes away from the appeal of sitting out there. I have no idea why they would let that go. Thanks for the comment.

  4. I willtake the old GULFSTREAM race track over what is there now. If Stronach had his way he would also tear down Saratoga race track and build another amusement race track. Sorry ,the present GULFSTREAM does nothing for me.

    • I’m with you…I long for the days when you could hold a Breeders Cup there…obviously horse racing was not the top priority when they rebuilt this place. I was expecting the new place to be something like Arlington Park…(hoped is a better word)

  5. The Old Gulfstream Race Track was much more friendly to race fan or handicapper roomy with great views of the track. On race days there is really no place to sit out front and see the race live. The new walking ring is a great place to see a race horse up close and personable. Like an old racetrack friend use to say.They just could of made it a little bigger in the seating area. The betting windows are much to slow especially the ones by the walking rings. The unmanned widows are out of date. On the second floor the shades don’t come down to block the sun. In all I would give Gulfstream a B in racetrack venues. Strictly on the racing it is very competitive and exciting. With 2 grass courses it is competitive to Saratoga.I like that they run a lot of distance (2 turns) grass races. There dirt races are also well put together with lots of 3 yr. old races.

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