Turf Paradise has been at the heart of racing in Arizona for over six decades, and it has been hosting thoroughbred racing since 1956. It is one of a number of tracks that also regularly hosts quarter horse racing.
It is situated in the Deer Valley section of Phoenix and is one of three race tracks located in Arizona. The other two venues in the southwestern state are Rilito and Arizona Downs, and horses regularly move between these tracks.
The Turf Paradise racing season tends to begin in mid-October, with meets typically held Saturday-Tuesday. Events are held until mid-May. During the off-season, the venue occasionally stages competitive motorcycling events, with the Arizona Mile often held here. Over the course of the winter months, over 120 race-days are held at the track. Over 2,000 horses can be housed at the track at any given time.
Although the track doesn’t hold an overwhelming number of stakes and graded contests, there is always a decent level of competition in Arizona, and Turf Paradise tends to attract decently sized fields, particularly for weekend meets.
The Turf Paradise Derby is the most lucrative race held at the track, and it tends to take place in mid-February. A prize purse of $100,000 is offered to the winner, and it is one of many races which are classified as official prep races for the Kentucky Derby. It is held on the dirt over a mile and a sixteenth.
The Bienvenidos Stakes is another hugely popular event as this stakes event is held on the opening day of the season. The winner receives $30,000. This is often one of their most popular race-days with around 7,000 spectators descending upon the Arizona venue each year. With affordable admission prices of around $3 per person, the track has always been extremely popular with visitors.
Turf Paradise History
Compared to some of the other racetracks in the US, Turf Paradise is relatively new, first opening its doors in 1956. Businessman Walter Cluer purchased 1,400 acres of land in 1954, and began building Phoenix’s first racetrack.
Despite a lot of initial skepticism, Cluer completed the project and even though it experienced some initial issues with accessible roads nearby, the track opened on January 7th, 1956.
The track didn’t undergo any renovations for the first 24 years, but in 1980, following the takeover of Herb Owens, work was carried out for the first time. A seven-furlong turf course was added with a one mile and one-eighth chute, while a patio area was also added. The clubhouse was also given a refurbishment.
Off-track betting was legalized in Arizona in 1989, and this gave Turf Paradise a new lease of life.
Ownership changed hands once again in 1994, with Hollywood Park Racetrack taking charge of Turf Paradise, and it flourished under their tutelage for a number of years. Spectator numbers continued to rise, and interest in horse racing in the US was significant.
It wasn’t long until the track was purchased once again with self-made millionaire Jerry Simms paying $53million in 2000. The Turf Club was completely renovated during his tenure.
The main track and turf course were both later completely ripped up and renovated over the next couple of years, making the old-style venue almost completely unrecognizable. Improved facilities in the stables were also at the top of Simms’ list of priorities, and this was completed shortly afterward.
Simms also purchased the land adjacent to the track four years later, helping him improve access to the venue.
Turf Paradise Known Track Bias
Some US tracks have a significant bias, but Turf Paradise doesn’t appear to have an overwhelming pattern. However, the stats from 2018 suggest that favorites win around 38% of time, particularly in 5K Claimers.
A recent meeting in February saw 77% of the favorites finishing in the money, but small fields can often be the cause of this.
Generally, the outside posts are seen as more profitable over the shorter trips, while horses traveling beyond the mile, particularly on the turf course, are better suited to being drawn on the inside. But unlike some of the New York and Florida tracks, these stats aren’t overwhelming.
46% of winners between October 2018 and February 2019 in 5-5.5 furlong events won wire-to-wire suggesting that early pace is absolutely vital at Turf Paradise over the shorter distances.
In turf routes, this reduced to around 14% suggesting that horses with late pace are better equipped to win these longer events.
Winning Post Positions
Using the stats for the 2018-19 winter meet, which took place between October and May, there are some patterns which can sometimes give bettors a helping hand when it comes to determining the pros and cons of a particular post position.
On the turf course, 39% of winners came from posts 1 or 2, proving that the inside positions can be invaluable. These stats are particularly prevalent over the shorter trips. Only 20 races featured ten or more runners, and none of the horses drawn above nine were successful.
Post position nine was the weakest and produced just nine winners.
On the dirt course, there was a fairly even split of winners in sprint events. Around 15% of winners were drawn on the inside, whilst 13% of winners came from stall four. Five of the 31 horses drawn in stall 11 were successful.
In route races, stall 2 was the most successful place to be drawn, producing 16% of winners. However, there was a fairly even split across the rest of the stalls. 14% of winners came from stall eight, proving that being drawn wide isn’t necessarily a disadvantage over this trip.
Top Trainers at Turf Paradise
There are a number of talented horsemen who ply their trade in Arizona, and many of them bring their horses to Turf Paradise on a regular basis. Some trainers have more success than others, and there are a number of handlers who continually produce impressive numbers at the track.
There a number of names to keep an eye at future meets.
Stats (2018-19 winter meet)
Kevin Eikleberry (21% Strike Rate)
Dan McFarlane (24% Strike Rate)
Shawn H Davis (25% Strike Rate)
Tina Ramgeet (26% Strike Rate)
Manuel Ortiz (27% Strike Rate)
Jose Silva (27% Strike Rate)
Robertino Diordoro (37% Strike Rate)
Top Jockeys at Turf Paradise
A horse’s performance and finishing position can be significantly affected by the quality of jockey on board, and some riders are extremely adept at getting their horse into the perfect position for a late run.
Regular jockeys around this track will know the track bias, and they’ll know how to adapt to the ever-changing conditions, and they can play a crucial part in deciding the outcome.
There are a number of talented jockeys who regularly compete in Arizona, and here are a few of the key names to look out for:
Stats (2018-19 winter meet)
Andrew Ramgeet (18% Strike Rate)
Daniel Vergara (18% Strike Rate)
Denny Velazquez (19% Strike Rate)
David Lopez (20% Strike Rate)
Glenn Corbett (20% Strike Rate)
Scott Stevens (20% Strike Rate)
Francisco Arrieta (30% Strike Rate)
Turf Paradise and Key Races
The racing season at Turf Paradise takes place throughout the winter months, and although conditions can be interchangeable, there is generally a warm climate in Arizona during these months. It can often be too warm to race throughout the summer.
Racing tends to begin in mid-October and it generally concludes in mid/late May.
There are a handful of key races which take place throughout the year. These are valuable contests, which always attract a high-quality field.
The Turf Paradise Derby is seen as a prep race for the Kentucky Derby, and the winners will be rewarded with $100,000 in prize money. Trainers such as Bob Baffert, Jerry Hollendorfer and Steven Miyadi will often send their horses to Phoenix for this contest.
The Bienvenidos Stakes takes place on the opening weekend of the meet and is worth $75,000. The Cotton Fitzsimmons Mile is another valuable race which is held at Turf Paradise, whilst the $75,000 Phoenix Gold Cup completes the Stakes program which is worth around $200,000 in total.
Turf Paradise Track Address
1501 W. Bell Road – Phoenix, AZ 85023