Welcome to Palm Meadows Training Center, the new and widely praised home of the Fasig-Tipton Florida select sale of 2-year-olds in training. Many consignors and buyers like the new location and there were very few complaints in the days leading up to the March 3 auction.
“Two words: love it,” said Kentucky bloodstock agent Mike Ryan, who heads a pinhooking partnership with Florida horseman Niall Brennan. “The track is superior. It’s very kind and it has a good cushion and a good bounce. Horses come off of it happy and they’re getting over it without laboring. They’re not slipping out behind. They’re getting hold of the track, and they’ve stayed sound. When they go back to the barns, they chill out. I can’t say enough good things about the place.”
Palm Meadows is located on 286 acres on the Sunshine State’s East Coast. It is in Palm Beach County near Boynton Beach, which is north of Miami. The facility serves as satellite training center for Gulfstream Park and a number of top trainers, including Hall of Famer Nick Zito and Todd Pletcher have horses at the complex, which has a turf course and a 1 1/8-mile dirt track with a surface of topsoil that contains a little clay.
“For me it works out great because I train here,” said trainer John Kimmel, who was inspecting the 2-year-olds available for purchase the morning of March 1. “It’s been a big edge for me. I think the sale horses look like they’re enjoying it a little bit more than they did at Calder. They are a little bit more relaxed. The barns are nicer; I think it’s a much better set-up.”
Consignor Becky Thomas of Sequel Bloodstock was another Palm Meadows fan.
“I don’t think I’ve trained in a more wonderful environment,” she said. “I love, love, love the track. All the management at Palm Meadows has been awesome to us and Fasig-Tipton has just made it an incredible experience. My 2-year-olds are happy; my pony is happy; everybody’s happy. The track has big, wide, sweeping turns and a great surface. It’s very easy on the horses.”
Dapple Bloodstock’s Mike Akers, who is closely associated with pinhooker Ciaran Dunne of Wavertree Stables, called the move to Palm Meadows “the smartest decision Fasig-Tipton has ever made.”
New Jersey bloodstock agent Buzz Chace also was pleased.
"Sometimes change is good," he said. "It's very comfortable here."
The auction formerly was held at Calder Casino & Race Course, and the selling took place in the track’s paddock. At Palm Meadows, there are fewer facilities that could be modified for an auction. Fasig-Tipton officials had to make arrangements for the erection of a temporary grandstand with 350 seats for the under tack show and a tent complex, which includes a sale pavilion. But the task wasn’t as daunting as it could have been.
“It wasn’t the first go-around for us,” said Max Hodge, Fasig-Tipton’s director of client services. “The previous two years at Calder, we had put up (a tent complex with) an office, video facilities, and a dining area.”
Patrice Miller of the Pennsylvania consulting firm EQB had only one complaint about Palm Meadows. She wanted the temporary grandstand to be larger.
“Everybody was sort of sitting right on top of each other,” she said. “A lot of these people like to think and write and talk to their trainers, and it’s too tight to make any comments (without being overheard).”
But she still was enthusiastic about the auction’s new home.
“I love the track here,” she said. “I think it’s a much better situation than it was at Calder. I was really impressed when I looked at the horses. Most of them didn’t have great big shins on them. It’s a much kinder track, I think.”
Ernie Reichard, the racing manager for Robert LaPenta, who has horses consigned to the sale, wished Palm Meadows was closer to Gulfstream Park because “when the horses are running, I need to be there too,” he said, "and Calder was only about 20 minutes away, depending on how many traffic lights you hit to come here (to Palm Meadow), it's an hour-plus drive."
But, like Miller, he was mostly pleased with Palm Meadows as a sale site.
“I think it’s real nice here, and the track looks good,” he said. “You know what I like about it. You’re close up to the horses (during the under tack show). The grandstand is almost next to the (track’s) rail and you can see the horses really close up. You can pick out the little things if that’s something you like to do.”