NEWS BLOG (WSAU) This time of year used to be the end of the horse racing season in New York. The championship races were traditionally held in October. The best horses would get a month off, and would be vanned to Florida to prepare for next year.
And for generations the best winter racing was at Hialeah, the most picturesque racetrack the world has ever known. Live flamingos inhabit the infield lake. The Mediterranean grandstand and Bougainvillea Fountain are architectural masterpieces. Horses race under palm trees and walk to and from their stables along paths lined with crushed seashells. The Hialeah turf course was regarded as one of the best in racing.
But Hialeah is an an unspeakably-bad neighborhood, a Cuban-American slum south of Miami. The ritzy jet-set of Hallandale Beach migrated north of Miami, where Gulfstream Park became the racetrack of choice. In the 1980s, Gulfsteam took over the important winter-racing dates in Florida. Hialeah, forced to race in the early-spring, instead shut down for good in 2001.
Closed for eight years, Hialeah has decided to run a brief quarter-horse meeting. By scheduling some racing, Hialeah will qualify for a slot machine and gaming license. The plan is to return to thoroughbred racing in a year or two.
Lambeau Field is a football shrine. Wrigley Field is hallowed ground for baseball fans. A shut-down or torn-down Hialeah Park is just as unthinkable. She is the Grand Dame of horse racing, and as of now, she is back.
Operations Manager, Midwest Communications-Wausau