January 3 at Gulfstream Park

The Lotto and Indian gaming gobble the gambling pie in South Florida, leaving the pari-mutuels crumbs. Gulfstream, located next to Aventura at the county line, belies this paradigm by continuing to present high-class racing, comfortable seating, diverse concessions, and other diversions within a still-lovely venue. That was most obvious at the beginning of 2004, when 21,000 turned out for this season's opening day. A mind-numbing, heart-pumping reunion of punk supergroup Blondie provided an inventive, charming, "Atomic" sonic blast matching in quality the group's August 4, 1979, show at Sunrise Musical Theatre. The band drew thousands of rockers who wouldn't know a saddle from a sawbuck. Meanwhile an ace, eleven-race card ended with three handicap (meaning better horses must carry more weight to even the odds), $100,000-guaranteed stakes races, including the Mr. Prospector Handicap (named for the horse who set the six-furlong-course record in 1973), which showcased Cajun Beat -- among the best four-year-olds in the nation -- and close challenger Gygistar. The exhilarating music and thrilling races made one wish every day were opening day.


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