My blog some months back that revisited the dim remains of Phoenix Trotting Park received a lot of attention from the Standardbred community. Many people have written to offer opinions about the one-meet stand in the Arizona desert. I thank all of them and now present a few excerpts from those communications, protecting the writers’ identities.
“I retired from the business in 1987. In 1996 I moved to Scottsdale, just outside of Phoenix. I was driving on Interstate 10 west to California when I noticed the abandoned Phoenix Trotting Park about a quarter of a mile off the highway. So here we are 30 years after the track was closed and the track was still in the middle of nowhere…I mean nowwheresville [sic].
“Phoenix from the 1960s to the mid 2000s was one of the biggest boom areas in America, second only to Las Vegas and (parts of) Florida and it is still undeveloped where they built the track. There are three major factors for the demise of the track in my opinion.
“First and foremost, there are no (Standardbred) people in Phoenix or anywhere (near). All of the horsemen are Quarter horse cowboys. I liken it to when a Quarter Horse track opened in the late seventies on Long Island, in Yaphank. It was called Par Meadows, off exit 68 on the Long Island Expressway, which is the middle of nowhere and there were very few Quarter horse people on Long Island. Number two, the heat makes it very difficult to race trotters in the spring, summer and fall. The horses that race at Turf Paradise move north to Cottonwood, two hours north to escape the heat.
“Lastly, because it was so far from the East Coast racing and Midwest tracks, even Canadian, it made it difficult to be a part of a circuit. There was some racing in California but it was minimal.
“I went to ASU, left Chicago in seventy-six, so obviously the track was already shut down for ten years but I was so impressed with the facility. I can’t remember if it was a five-eighths or a half-mile. I went on to California in eighty-one and did send some horses back to winter train at Phoenix Trotting Park in (the) early eighties; a few California trainers would go there when our local tracks were racing other breeds. I was told that California horsemen raced there and even some Chicago guys. I cannot remember all their names but most (of) them have passed in recent years.
“Obviously the freeway helps connect the track today but it's still a major drive to get there from the metropolis of Phoenix. Turf Paradise is out of the north end of (the) city but was reasonably close to population. (The track’s) location was too. Back then the amount of land (the track takes up) was very cheap.
“I would love to see a push for a meet there but just like California racing it’s so far from the heart of harness racing. It would probably still be too tough to attract horsemen.
“Thanks for the article; it brought back memories of a real neat looking place.”
Someone wrote that trainers Jerry Silverman and Jerry Graham (Punxsutawney) were both active at Phoenix.
“The main reason Phoenix Trotting Park didn’t work is that it was built on the wrong side of town; away from the direction that the Phoenix suburbs grew. They still hold occasional equestrian events at the site (or did when I read that a couple of years ago). I think it was Bruce Nickells who rode his motorcycle from wherever he was a second trainer to go with the stable there. It is now graffiti-ridden.”
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