Horse race would have sloppy track
March 21, 1988
This week, the Florida Cabinet gets to hear about the big plan to put an Arabian horse-racing track on Miami Beach. Literally, on the beach.
Such a bold idea could only come from that special breed known as the "Miami Beach promoter." In this case, two such visionaries announced that November is a swell time to hold the first Arabian Horse Desert Classic.
They're talking about a weeklong jamboree that would include a charity ball, a 26-mile run and—hang onto your cabanas!—a beauty pageant.
The promoters have predicted 100,000 visitors would flock to watch the ponies run on the beach between Fifth and 11th streets. (Presumably, grandstand prices will vary with proximity to the stables, the cheaper seats being downwind.)
The Beach is hoping to attract 2,600 top racehorses from around the world. For authenticity, even the jockeys would be garbed in Arabian-type costumes.
The mere promise of Willie Shoemaker dolled up to look like Valentino is a powerful draw indeed, but toss in a bevy of half-naked beauty queens and you've got class with a capital C.
Not surprisingly, Mayor Alex Daoud has hailed the scheme. The Chamber of Commerce says it will make the media aware that Miami Beach really does have a beach, as its name might suggest.
State agencies are not as keen on the Arabian Classic. Delicate health questions have been raised about the presence of 2,000-plus horses on a public playground.
As one official in Tallahassee put it: "Just like we don't like sanitary landfills in parks, we felt running horses on a beach is incompatible with the beach."
One problem is that the sand on Miami Beach is technically more of a grit—pulverized shells dredged off the ocean floor and packed by bulldozers. If it's too rough or too hot on the hooves, I suppose you could always fit the horses with tiny open-toed sandals.
The other problem is not so simple to solve. As everyone knows, these big animals are not easily housebroken.
Think about it: 2,600 thoroughbreds. Figure 20 pounds of muck per horse, per day, and you get (conservatively) 52,000 pounds. That's 26 tons a day. Now stack that up over a week's time and you're staring at 182 tons—we're talking a Mount Everest of horse puckey.
Skeptics would see cleanup as a messy problem; optimists (and isn't this what the Beach is all about?) would see it as a public-relations challenge.
It's not so big a crisis, really. Tourists on South Florida beaches are used to quick-stepping around all kinds of daunting obstacles, from poisonous jellyfish to gobs of tar, to the occasional human torso. A horse dropping would hardly make them dash for the hotel checkout.
Before allowing such a minor drawback to squelch an otherwise brilliant idea, why not try to turn it around and make something positive?
One obvious solution is to ask the city commissioners themselves to clean up after the horses. They are, after all, vastly experienced in this area.
Between races, we stage celebrity "scoop-ups." Line up five famous people, give each a gold shovel and a burlap sack, and tell them to go to it. For the inaugural, we could fly down the entire cast of The New Hollywood Squares.
Picture a shovel-wielding Richard Simmons chasing a pack of sleek Arabian steeds along the shimmering sands of Miami Beach—well, you just can't buy that kind of publicity.
And, for the kiddies, a boisterous "Dodge the Muffin" contest. Epcot, eat your heart out.
Some people are saying that thundering horses don't really fit the image of a tropical beach. Neither do Teamsters, yet they're down here every year with their conventions and loud shirts. Talk about a scary stampede.
With more polished extravaganzas like the Arabian Desert Classic, the future of the Beach is shining. No more cheap gimmicks and crackpot promotions. This is the big time now.
Sophistication with a capital S.