I just recently concluded my visits to the backstretches of Gulfstream, Palm Meadows Training Center and Gulfstream Park West.
Considering the strength of the hurricane, I was surprised and pleased that the three facilities suffered only minor damage along with short term power outages. The horses that shipped out from Gulfstream have for the most part returned and racing and training has resumed at all three facilities.
Palm Meadows seemed to fare the best in that there were only a few trees toppled with short term power issues. Gulfstream had some damage to the roofs but nothing major. The new barns called the “tents” handled the storm very well and look unscathed. GPW came out of the storm functionally fine but visually it looks beat up. Years of neglect by Churchill with the addition of the storm adds to its tawdry appearance.
The lack of power was the main hardship for horses, horsemen and personnel. Limited lighting/electricity made training difficult until later in the morning. The lack of power created misery for the help that live on the grounds and have no air conditioning, TV or way to cook food. Internet and phone service was disrupted for a few days.
The FHBPA chaplaincy has done a super job of supplying food and water to the backside workers. Numerous pallets of food have been delivered with supplies of ready to eat meals. Chaplain Tom and his staff deserve kudos.
Along with helping with the food needs to the backside workers, the FHBPA has agreed to split the costs with Gulfstream of vanning to and from Palm Meadows which will be paid from the backstretch fund. Those that shipped to places other than Palm Meadows will be responsible to pay their own cost for vanning. Anyone that has a vanning bill for shipping to and from Palm Meadows as a result of the storm is asked to submit invoices to Gulfstream.
The horsemen should feel good about how they both individually and in concert responded to this storm to protect the horses while safeguarding themselves personally. Track management also needs to be given credit for a timely and well-orchestrated response. PJ Campo, Billy Badgett and Cliff Hopmans worked tirelessly guiding and directing the ship. It was an exhausting and mammoth undertaking.
Considering what could have happened with a direct hit by the storm, I think everyone is relieved and has put their best foot forward.
As always, please reach out to the FHBPA if we can assist in any way.