I have documented at length my enjoyment of Gulfstream Park. No, I wasn’t at the old Gulfstream, and no, I am not a Stronach/Magna fan, and yes, I agree that there are too few seats…but on your average racing day, I find Gulfstream a pretty pleasant place to spend a day at the races.
Saturday, March 20th, was not your average racing day; it was the day of the Florida Derby. And though I spent two hours tops at the track that day, Gulfstream was not necessarily a pleasant place to be.
The Village at Gulfstream Park opened earlier this year, and those who were worried about it would affect parking on big racing days (big racing day?) were right. OK, granted, I arrived at five minutes to post. But when two parking lots are full and you’ve got to weave your way through shoppers and shops to find a third, something’s not working.
Gulfstream was packed. Packed. Moving through the paddock and across the apron required bulldozing one’s way through walls of people, and there is no way that all those people on line at 3 MTP got their bets in. No way. The good news is that there were a ton of people at the track, and handle was high. The bad news is the place was cramped and uncomfortable. I wonder how many of those in attendance actually got to see a live horse, in the paddock or on the track?
After the races, hundreds of shoppers and diners milled among the stores and restaurants; a live band played near the paddock, and a festive atmosphere pervaded the place. It was a perfectly pleasant place to be
The next day, Gulfstream was back to its manageable, tropical self. Lines were manageable; picnic tables and bar seats were readily available; betting lines were short. And when the last race was over, while I didn’t much feel like going shoe shopping, I was quite pleased that within a short walk, a number of restaurants and bars offered dining and socializing options. And it was good to know that should the mood strike, the shoes were there.
Yeah, it’s all a little garish, and the architecture is a little over-the-top…but hey, it’s South Florida, and affronts to taste are everywhere. I’ve been at Aqueduct all winter, and while its grime and grittiness are near and dear to my heart, a little al fresco betting, drinking, and eating among the palm trees is a welcome respite.
Next stop: Tampa Bay Downs.