I went to Gulfstream Park for the first time many years ago. I went there with my father; the year was 1950. It played second fiddle to Hialeah in those days, but still it was a fine racetrack. Great riders plied their trade there: Eddie Arcaro, John Rotz, Conn McCreary, Teddy Atkinson and Jimmy Stout ("When you're in doubt, go to Jimmy Stout!"). I have gone there many times ever since. Our early, important, beloved filly, Mrs. Cornwallis, won her first race at Gulfstream in 1971.
But it is a sorry place now. This season, as a site for the racing of Thoroughbred horses, it has been dismal. I do not think Gulfstream's owners - Magna Entertainment Corporation (Frank Stronach) - have done much for racing. In fact, the Magna organization has set the sport back at a time when it could ill afford a setback of any sort.
The charming old Mediterranean Gulfstream grandstand was torn down by Stronach. He then proceeded to build back a garish, poorly designed racino that is very unfriendly to people who want to watch Thoroughbred horse racing. At present time he is busy is trying to cram every other kind of commercial enterprise around the track. Understandably, Gulfstream is not doing good business, and consequently the racing secretary at Gulfstream is striving to fill races each day with cheaper races, enabling the track to minimize its daily purse structure. Better horses are not being given an opportunity to run, although Gulfstream continues to showcase their high profile, pre-Derby preps.
The result is that winter racing in Florida has deteriorated. I believe it will deteriorate even more in 2009 when this year's fiasco drives many of the bigger outfits to winter in California, New Orleans or Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs.
Thus, a golden opportunity exists for Tampa Bay Downs, a sporty little track on the Florida west coast. If they could justify raising their purses in 2009 on the basis of an anticipated increase in attendance and pari-mutuel handle, they could take the play away from Gulfstream in 2009. And more power to them!
This is Cot Campbell and this is my view.