HERE'S MY LIST OF TRACKS I WISH I COULD VISIT THIS WINTER:
1. Santa Anita . . . Is located in a nice part of metropolitan Los Angeles with the San Gabreil mountains in the background. This historic place can still get big crowds when the weather is good, 80 degrees in January is possible. Although it's not as big as it used to be, the top winter races still occur here.
2. Oaklawn . . . No turf course, but some of the most loyal horse racing fans anywhere. No wonder Zenyatta made 2 appearances at this majestic oval in the south. The biggest non-triple crown or Breeders Cup crowd shows up annually for the Arkansas Derby and the casino will keep you busy after the races.
3. Gulfstream . . . I don't understand why they rebuilt this place without the Breeders' Cup in mind. Due to the fact that the grandstand is so small, Gulfstream will not host a BC any time soon. No doubt south Florida has the best winter weather anywhere and many of the best stables, jockeys and trainers come here for some serious horse racing. This is no vacation!
4. Fair Grounds . . . In the heart of New Orleans, Fair Grounds hosts some quality racing fueled by alternative gaming, mainly slots. Fair Grounds attracts the top Chicago jocks and trainers with a few Kentucky stables coming over too. Beats standing on the Hawthorne apron.
5. Tampa Bay . . . Some say Tampa Bay is Florida's "B" track, but the attendance and handle keep growing at a faster rate than GP. One strategy used by TB is to lower the takeout. Bettors have responded by making this the alternative to betting on California's Santa Anita. The large and competitive fields have been what attracts the most money, compared to let's say Golden Gate's 5- and 6-horse fields. Good value here.
6. Sunland . . . This track continues to grow despite being in a small population market (El Paso, TX). It's Derby has been stealing talent from the west coast and Sunland's simulcasting continues to grow. Another Kentucky Derby winner might just come through here.
7. Turf Paradise . . . Old school horseracing under the sun. TP doesn't have any slot dollars to add to their purses and has to compete with Indian casinos in the Phoenix area. But TP keeps on trudging along. The quality isn't great, TP attracts from summer outfits like Emerald and the mountain time zone fair tracks. If the Arizona politicians would give TP the much needed relief (slots), this place could compete with Santa Anita, and that is no joke.