The Evolution of Horse Racing in Florida

July 26, 2019 Matt Speakman

Horse racing is one of the biggest attractions for sports fans around the world. But, for those in Florida, the activity has a long history. It was in the 1920s when horse racing started emerging in Florida, soon becoming a magnet for people. Over the years, the state also saw the rise of thoroughbred racing, harness racing, and handicap racing. But the excitement of placing bets and enjoying horses galloping to their goal took a new shape when the activity became a regulated one across the state. Today, the activity is governed by Florida gambling laws. Moreover, players can place their bets on the racing horses right from the comfort zone of their homes, thanks to recent technological innovations that have taken place in the realm.

The Horse Racing Tracks in Florida That Nobody Should Miss

Horsemen participating in a horse race in Florida

A snap of enthusiastic horse racers in Florida. © Pexels

While online betting on horse races is very much possible these days, nothing else can provide the adrenaline rush which bettors get when they are a part of a physical horse race. The busy hubbub of the track is a great experience immortalized in many popular movies. If you want to get in on the action, here are the best picks of horse racing tracks in Florida that have been there for over a century:

Gulf Stream Park Racing & Casino

The first pick of racing tracks is located in Hallandale Beach. At this place, which is running since 1939, visitors can enjoy horse racing and be a part of one of the biggest casinos in Florida. Important races and race tracks are available from October through December every year. Home to thoroughbred races, this racing track hosts three major preparation races, namely Holy Bull Stakes, Fountain of Youth Stakes, and the Florida Derby, where three-year-olds try out for a place in the Triple Crown.

Tampa Bay Downs

Tampa Bay Downs is the focal point of all racing lovers visiting Tampa Bay. This racing track started in 1926—an era when betting in horse racing was still illicit in Florida. Tampa Bay was a gathering place for baseball writers from all around the US, especially during the time when sportswriters were often more popular than professional athletes. They all would meet in the area every spring to cover major baseball spring training sessions. Today, Tampa Bay Downs organizes a winter meet from November to May and holds an additional two-day racing festival from June 3 to July 1.

Hialeah Par

This race track is entrenched in history and is probably the most popular. It is counted amongst the biggest and oldest recreational facilities in southern Florida. Covering about 40 square blocks of area, this racing track also has a full-blown casino, lavish dining area, and live entertainment options. Developed by aviation pioneer Glenn Curtiss and his partner, James H. Bright, in 1922, the track was once a dog racing track. It was only in 1925 that it started keeping thoroughbred horses. On March 5, 1979, the racing track made to the list of the US National Register of Historic Places.

Pompano Park

Lastly, there is Pompano Park, also known as Isle Casino Racing Pompano Park. This standardbred harness racing track in Florida’s Pompano Beach is dubbed as “The Winter Home of Harness Racing.” Much of its popularity is attributed to its location in tropical south Florida, which provides the right weather and track conditions to horsemen. The racing track holds its live racing meet for about ten months every year, with a short break between the last half of June and the second week in August. The track has been remodeled to offer casino games and live poker games subject to betting limitations by Florida law. The area around Pompano Park is set to include numerous dining, retail, commercial, residential, and hotel elements.

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