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Florida Guide > Miscellaneous

Horse racing in Florida

Although Florida is home to nearly all breeds of horses, Thoroughbreds outnumber all the others. In fact, Ocala, located in North Central Florida, breeds an impressive 3, 500 to 5, 000 Thoroughbred race horses each year.

Unless you follow the Thoroughbred horse racing industry closely, many are not aware that Florida also boasts Thoroughbred horse racing tracks — Calder Race Course, Gulfstream Park and Tampa Bay Downs. In fact, Calder Race Course kicks off the road to the Kentucky Derby on January 1 with the first derby of the year — Gr-III Tropical Park Derby. Gulfstream Park and Tampa Bay Downs also pave the Road to the Roses with graded stakes over the first few months of every year.

The 80-year-old Tampa Bay Downs is where we decided to visit. Tampa Bay Downs is the only Thoroughbred race track on the West Coast of Florida, and is known as one of America’ s oldest and most well-maintained racetracks. Tampa Bay Downs first opened its doors in 1926 under the name of Tampa Downs, and has since had a long and colorful history.

Sitting in the club house overlooking the race course, we could see the horses entering the track for the post parade to the starting gate. As the horses pranced, I glanced nervously at the programme guide in my hand. It wasn’ t the first time I had held one, but it would be the first time I would use the information it provides to place a wage, it was my very first bet. Later, I clutched my ticket as the bell rang and the starting gate sprung open. I couldn’ t help but get caught up in the excitement and I cheered my horse all the way to the wire. Amazingly, my horse won! It had to be beginners luck, but, win or lose, the day was an experience I’ ll never forget.

Two other facilities at the race track that you could try are The Downs Golf Practice Facility which allows guests to practice their swing while viewing and wagering a bet on their horse. The other room is the Silks Poker Room which has plenty of poker tables and over 50 plasma TVs so you can watch the racing while trying your hand at poker. You can also purchase beverages as well.

So, if you want to get on track for an unforgettable experience, my suggestion for a sure bet would be to spend the day, or a part of the day, at a race track. And, in case you are wondering, the tracks are family-friendly and can even be educational for the kids.

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Page added on: 25 December 2008
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