Kendra Steiner Editions

September 4, 2012

the Dog Racing tracks of Florida: Summer 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 6:55 pm

GILDED SHERRY, superstar of the greyhound racing world, at Daytona Beach Kennel Club, right before her 87th win

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For many years, one of my dreams has been to take a week or two in the summer and do nothing but hang out at the greyhound racing tracks of Florida, drinking and eating track food and chatting with the locals and writing (tracks are a great environment for writing, at least for me). With my wife being gone for a few weeks in Germany visiting her sister, I figured this would be my chance (after all, I would not drag my wonderful wife to 10 days of constant dog tracks…she’s a fan, but not that much), and since I’m not getting any younger, I’d best take the opportunity while I had it. So I got a cheap Southwest non-stop flight to Florida and scheduled 10 days of daily greyhound racing at the dog tracks of Florida. The sport is still alive and vibrant in Florida, which has 75% of the remaining dog tracks in the USA. Though I catch races on the internet regularly and catch simulcasts at my local racetrack, the closest dog track to me is Gulf Greyhound, which is 4 1/2 hours away. Needless to say, I can’t go down there very often. Of course, I explored the local areas when I was not at the tracks, and I studiously avoided the touristy places. Another highlight was the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, but that probably belongs in another blog post, although I have a feeling that Dali might have appreciated the sport, at least I’d like to think he would have, particularly back in the days when monkeys rode on the backs of the dogs in miniature jockey uniforms.

I’d originally planned to visit 5 tracks, but I had to change my plans somewhat and wound up not getting down to Palm Beach. Perhaps next trip (I can also hit Flagler or Naples). Still, the four I visited were all wonderful, each in its own way, and the trip was a joy. I would definitely like to visit the dog tracks of Florida again…maybe I can get down there for Part Two in a few years.

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the massive DERBY LANE GREYHOUND PARK, in St. Petersburg, Florida, in operation since 1925

a large, old-school facility with a classic look

there are enough seats here to fit an army, which reminds one of how popular greyhound racing was in its heyday

as with all the Florida tracks I visited, the staff and the other dog-racing fans were very friendly

sitting up in the stands, with a Tampa Bay breeze blowing, composing poetic stanzas between the races, while swigging cheap beer and munching on pizza slices is joy for me…

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DAYTONA BEACH KENNEL CLUB was the most upscale of the tracks I visited

moved from its previous location near Daytona Raceway, the new facility is surely the classiest dog racing track I’ve ever encountered…I had the privilege of catching GILDED SHERRY (see her pic above) with another dominating win, her 87th…I did not wager on Sherry, since her odds were 1/9, dropping to 1/5 right before the race, but I DID have a winning show bet on that race…dog-racing fans are certainly happy at Daytona Beach, as I had a number of people sit down next to me and start conversations…if I wanted to win someone over to the sport of greyhound racing, I would take him/her to Daytona Beach Kennel Club

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ORANGE PARK KENNEL CLUB, in Jacksonville, is in the tradition of the dog tracks I grew up with…much more of a working-class clientele than at Daytona Beach…it rained both days I spent at Orange Park, but that did not stop the races…in fact, the dogs raced in raincoats one of the days (I could not get a pic of that, sorry)…I did very well at Orange Park on my modest bets…this is the kind of track that makes me want to retire to Florida…

by the way, I had an incredible seafood dinner of Gator Tails and Frog Legs at Sam’s  Seafood, not far from the track…

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the final track on my dog-track tour of Florida was Sanford-Orlando, which is neither in Sanford or Orlando, but halfway between the two cities…this was by far the most modest track of the four, the reason being that it did not have a poker room/racino as the other tracks did…however, in some ways it was my favorite track because of its warm, home-like feel…it was very clean and neat (as were all the tracks), but like the kind of “neighborhood” dog tracks that have dried up in the last few decades…Sanford-Orlando also has a base $1 bet, which is somewhat unique (the payoffs are calculated on a $1 bet…other tracks that offer $1 quinellas still calculate the overall bets on a $2 base bet), and for some reason, the day I was there, the dollar quinellas paid VERY well…I had only one winning bet out of nine bets ($9 total), but went home with over $40, and that was with missing on eight of my nine bets!

Overall, I had an exciting time hitting the greyhound racing tracks of Florida and living the Life of Riley for 10 days. There’s no way one can describe the appeal of such an avocation. You either get it or you don’t. I love dogs, and seeing these canine athletes at work, handicapping the races, and placing my modest $2 bets ($1 at Sanford-Orlando) is something that provides me happiness. I could write about how racing is a metaphor for this or that, how it’s an archetypally American pastime, how it’s a proud American tradition that we are gradually losing (I took my late mother to Raynham-Taunton Greyhound Park in Massachusetts, when she was 88, and just a year before a new state law closed down the track…Mom had a WONDERFUL time), but honestly, I don’t think any such pretentious intellectual justification is needed. Like Charlton Comics, 50’s paperback-original crime novels, pinball, garage rocknroll, or B-movies, it simply is what it is, and either you “get” the magic or you choose to do something else.

For family and financial and other reasons, I don’t think I could ever retire to Florida, if I can ever retire…but a trip down there every few years to keep up on my favorite tracks would be nice…

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1 Comment »

  1. I’m one of the people who gets it. I was an announcer at Plainfield Greyhound Park in Ct. I frequented the new England tracks but have been to greyhound races from Venezuela to Wisconsin. Nice to read your blog.

    Comment by Willie — June 11, 2015 @ 12:50 pm | Reply


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