My grandfather, who is the most influential person in my life along with my other grandparents and my parents, loved horse racing. I have some great memories of going to the race track with him at Arlington Downs in Chicago, being given some money to place some bets, and spending time going over the program to pick horses based on numbers, names, and my gut. The excitement of the races and the park was always a great time, but even more so when I left with a win!
Years ago my grandfather would take the train down to Miami from Chicago with my great-grandfather and go to the races at the Hialeah Park Racetrack. Hialeah in its day was one of the grandest race courses in the world. The slogan of the city was “All Roads Lead to Hialeah.” When I moved to Miami it was high on my list of places I wanted to visit because of how important my grandfather is in my life still. Luckily it had recently re-opened to quarter horse races.
Today I finally had a chance to visit Hialeah Park for the races! The park is showing its age, however the grounds are still beautiful and the clubhouse and grandstand still shows what a grand building it was. It might not be as new and sleek as racetracks like Arlington and others, but it has many grand architectural details that make it an enchanting place to be for the races. The grandstand overlooks the huge track with green lawns, ponds, islands and the famous Hialeah flamingos (which are really cool!). There are great views of the races either up close next to the track or up in the grandstand. It’s cool to sit in the wicker chairs in the boxes and imagine the days when those boxes would be the place to be. The suits and big hats you see at the Kentucky Derby was the norm. It was great to make some bets, watch the races, and walk the grounds, check out the horses, or just relax in the boxes in between the races.
The racetrack is in the middle of renovations to restore it to its former glory. Some workers said that a major part of the renovation, including a casino and new restaurants, should be finished by the opening of the next racing season. I had a great time at the park (despite leaving win-less) and am really excited to return next racing season to see the work that’s been done.
“All in all, I’d rather be at Hialeah!”
UPDATED: Just got back from a visit (February 2014) and luckily I was a winner twice (a WIN and a TRIFECTA bet on different races). I was also really excited to see Hialeah’s big makeover. The outside near the entrance looked a little spruced up (see pic far below). Inside the stands though it looked pretty much the same as before. I think most of the renovations happened to the casino part. When we went to check out the horses I did notice that the far side had been fixed up on the outside. Previous it had been closed off and mostly scaffold. I had been hoping for more of a sprucing up on the inside and in the grandstands, but it was nice to see at least the outside return to part of its former glory.
Hialeah Park (2200 E 4th Ave Hialeah, FL)- races from December to February