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Enduring Memories Of Hialeah Park

Hialeah Park, the great fading beauty of a race track, has hosted a horse race since 2001. Mostly, it’s the recollections of Old Miami that run around the oval. I wrote a column about the possibilities of reviving the old track but the e-mail responses were less about the future than memories of a lost era.

Billy Johnston of Miramar wrote:

What a shame that such a South Florida jewel was  lost to the racing world long ago. [Owner] John Brunetti and his insurmountable ego was the main cause. There's as much chance of returning that racing palace to its old glory as raising the Titantic for one last cruise.

In 1992, I had the pleasure of tending bar during a season in which the track had the prime winter dates [due to the closing to resurface Calder]. On opening day, they unexpectedly got 
so many people, 30 grand, that they were forced to stop charging admission and just opened the gates.

I'll never forget one particular gorgeous South  Florida afternoon while tending bar in the Mediterranean room in the second floor clubhouse. The French doors were open to my right. Just outsider, there was a flagpole. Out the doors was a beautiful vista of the track with lakes and -- most of all – the flamingos (not to mention two young and charming waitresses working the room).

Just as I was tripping out on this surreal view, a large monarch butterfly flew in through the French doors and circled the room. I will never forget it.  

   Linda Ripoll Mullins of Miami Lakes wrote:

“Your column brought back so many memories for me as our family frequented Hialeah Racetrack every Saturday during racing season.

“As a kid growing up in Hialeah, the summer camps at the parks would take us to the track to visit the small aquarium, the flamingos and the simple majesty of the park.

 “As a young girl, we saw the best horses of their time: Seattle Slew, Spectacular Bid, etc.  Oh my, you make me yearn for my youth! We would absolutely love having the old racetrack brought back to its rightful place in history -- the grand dame of horse tracks. My dad use to say the track surface was the best in the world. Thanks for the memories.” 

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