The 286-acre facility, which has accommodated five of the last 11 Kentucky Derby winners as well as Horse of the Year Champions Invasor, Saint Liam, and Ghostzapper, is currently housing 178 horses, according to General Manager Garry Van den Broek. Nine of the property’s 40 barns are in use by trainers including Wesley Ward and Michelle Nihei. The stalls are being offered at no cost to the trainers.
“It’s a great place to train,” Van den Broek said. “Keeping Palm Meadows open will continue to draw horseman to race at Gulfstream year-round.”
Among the amenities at Palm Meadows is the facility’s seven-furlong, 186-foot wide turf course. That turf course is set to be renovated this summer, but the upper 60-feeet of the course, unused during the Championship Meeting, will remain open for training. The 1 1/8-mile dirt training track was resurfaced last year.
Trainer Carlo Vaccarezza was among the trainers to move his stable to Palm Meadows for the summer, and the South Florida-based conditioner was immediately rewarded with the decision. He won with each of his first two starters since moving his outfit north, including Little Michelle, who scored her first stakes victory in Gulfstream’s Gracie Handicap on May 16. The Parkland resident is also training Little Alexis, third in the 2014 running of the Test Stakes (G1), on the grounds.
“First of all, the racetrack is phenomenal,” Vaccarezza said. “It’s very consistent, and every day when we train the horses, we know what we’re getting. Secondly, it’s the tranquility. You start training at six in the morning, and by 10:30, you finish. The horses are relaxed.”
“It’s a lot cooler, due to the fact that there’s a lot of vegetation and there’s not so much concrete all around,” he added. “There’s always a beautiful breeze, and you can graze the horses there, and they’ve got those turnout round pens. The horses can’t wait for us to come back in the afternoon and feed so we can take eight horses at a time and put them in the round pen for 15 or 20 minutes every day. The horses look forward to doing that.”
Vaccarezza said keeping the facility open benefits both the trainers and the horses.
“It’s just great,” he said. “It’s laid back, and the horses need that. They’re relaxed, and if you have a happy horse, they’re going to perform for you.”