Donn Diaries, Day 2: Sensational Saturday

Events / Travel

If you live in South Florida or are visiting Miami, Gulfstream Park is a must as an entertainment destination. I had the great pleasure of spending Saturday afternoon there, taking in the scene and watching some seriously good horse racing. 

After spending the morning hanging out with my parents, who are lucky enough to live in South Florida year ‘round, I headed over to Hallandale Beach’s Gulfstream Park. Saturday’s racing card offered fans a real treat: along with the two stakes races on the program (stakes races are the toughest level of competition in horse racing), there were some promising youngsters to see in the early part of the day as well. The first horse I wanted to be sure to check out was Miss Besilu; she’s not only a beautiful filly, but she’s an expensive one, too: her owner, Benjamin Leon, paid $2.6 million for her before she was even a year old.

She was running in a race on the grass for three-year-old fillies going a mile and a sixteenth, and as the gates opened up Miss Besilu (No. 3 – her jockey is wearing the maroon cap) broke alertly and swept down the stretch to enter the first turn.  

As the fillies entered the homestretch, Miss Besilu battled Sea Queen to the wire, eventually winning by a neck. It was certainly a thrilling race, and I’ll be keeping my eye on this girl as she continues in her career.

There was another race that really interested me: the seventh race was one for three-year-old colts and geldings (aka males) going a mile and a sixteenth on the main dirt track. The reason that I was so interested in this race is that, even though none of these horses had ever won before, they were a quality group on paper and seemed the type that may show up in some big-time races down the road. As the horses headed to the starting gate, I had a hard time picking out a favorite based on looks: they were all in top condition and were as shiny as the surface of the nearby ocean.

After a very competitive race, it was #10 Ring Weekend who emerged victorious; he’s definitely one to watch in the future, as were most of the top five finishers in this race.

I also managed to fall in love with this lead pony. Known around the track as “pony horses,” lead ponies escort Thoroughbreds from the saddling enclosure to the starting gate. Their main job is to keep the racehorses as calm as possible before they run, and they’re a vital, if often overlooked, part of the day-to-day life at tracks nationwide.  This particular little guy kept staring at me, so I had to take his picture. He was a bit of a ham.

Before I knew it, it was time for the afternoon’s main events to kick off. The first stakes race of the afternoon was the Suwanee River Stakes. This was a 1 1/8 mile test for fillies and mares four years old and up (a female horse is referred to as a mare once she reaches the age of five.)

There were eight contenders vying for the lion’s share of the $150,000 prize money, and as the horses made their way to the racetrack the crowd was densely packed with fans vying to catch a glimpse of the horses before heading to the betting windows.

After the fillies and mares had completed a mile and an eighth journey around the grass course, Parranda won with ease. I should have bet on her – she also won the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf last time I was down here, so I feel like I may have missed some easy money!

Finally, it was time for the crown of the day: the Gulfstream Park Sprint Stakes. There were 12 horses aged four and up lined up to duke it out, and I once again was having a terrible time deciding who I liked best. I’ve always, always loved Jackson Bend, a little horse with a huge heart:

Or should I go with my inner seven-year-old girl and back Silver Menace because he’s just so darn beautiful?

Maybe Falling Sky because I remember really liking him when he won the Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs last year …

Since I couldn’t decide and time was running out, I decided not to bet at all, which is what I always do if I don’t have a clear choice in mind. As it turns out, I would live to regret this decision.

As the horses made their way to the starting gate, the crowd grew on the rail next to the racetrack – everyone wanted a chance to see these horses in action. 

And then the race was on! It was Falling Sky’s day today, and he romped home with daylight between him and the second-place finisher.

And, guys, I really, really should have bet him. A $2 win bet on him yielded a $31.60 return. *Sob*

But I couldn’t be too upset – especially when I saw the huge smile splitting winning jockey Luis Saez’s face as he made his way to the Winner’s Circle.

In fact, all of Falling Sky’s connections were over the moon, and it was a great way to end a fantastic day at Gulfstream.

If you want to come experience the fun of horse racing in South Florida, don’t forget to sign up for our Florida Derby contest. It runs until 5:49 PM Eastern on February 9, 2014, so be sure to sign up now!

Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll be back with all of the action out of Gulfstream on Sunday’s Donn Handicap day!

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