(The new and improved Turfway Park / Photos by Makenzie Williams)

“My Turfway Park Experience”

By Dennis Trusty

I finally got to take a trip up to Turfway for the first time since the reconstruction, and I know there has been a lot of “negative” comments on social media. Some people are saying the track’s new layout is bad. Some have written on social media that the new track makes it difficult to watch races inside. I say don’t believe everything you read and let me give you my honest thoughts and true experience.

THE LAYOUT

The parking lot was kind of hilly, and the first thing that I didn’t really like was how the paddock was gated. To get there, you had to first walk inside the building to access the track and the paddock.

But, once there, you quickly see the improvements. The paddock has new concrete. You can get an up-close look at the horses. Truthfully, the paddock looks like old Turfway, but is fresh, too. Really like it.

When you walk inside the new building, you will immediately see — to your left — the Historic Horse Racing venue.

Going for the horses? Walk about 50 feet down and on the left, there is the simulcast room and programs. The simulcast facility has a nice “sports book” feel, equipped with typical, fancy, “sports book-like,” Churchill chairs.

Walk about another 50 to 100 feet down, and there is the spot reserved for Turfway Park racing fans. It is filled with tables and chairs. There are glass windows that enable the fans to see the track, and to the right is the paddock. One could argue that there are too many stairs to get to the paddock, but it looks very nice.

Another small issue that I experienced — which I feel and hope will be fixed by next year — is the lack of ability to be by the rail before, during and after the live races. Currently, this area has new grass, straw, hay and a lot of mud. I am sure this is due to the newness of the construction site.

But… watching the races outside is a Turfway legacy. As a kid, I remember watching the races on the television and then running to the rail off the turn.

The best news is you don’t have to run anymore. The track now has a big tote board with a gigantic TV screen right in front of the facility and right in your face. You can see the entire race and you can get right next to the wire.

THE CASINO

You have got to walk in there for multiple reasons.

If you have never been to Turfway or Newport Racing & Gaming, go to the kiosk and get your “free play” card. I was teased one notch away from $1,000 of “free play,” and instead I won $20 dollars’ worth of “free play.”

The machines are the same as those that fill the Derby City Gaming facility in Louisville. That makes it easier to figure out how to play, if you’re from Louisville.

After you’re done with the “free play,” you can go to the sports bar or go get a pizza. (The price was $10 for 6 slices of a cheese pizza. And, it was well worth it.)

Nice.

THE HORSE RACING AND PADDOCK

Let’s get some elephants out of the room quickly. The casino is basically bigger than the horse racing area inside. I did not like how many stairs there were to the paddock. It can be difficult to watch races inside in some locations. True.

But do you remember the old Turfway?

It was almost impossible to watch races inside.

Like I wrote earlier, the area down by the rail needs to be fixed, and I think it was the biggest mistake in the new construction.

But everything else?

It is a drastic, major improvement from old Turfway, in my opinion. Drastic.

Everything is newer. The building looks great. The track looks great, especially the new synthetic surface. All looks good.  You can get close to the new winner’s circle, so when your horse wins, you can actually tell the jockey “good ride,” and “congratulations.” They have a classier bar area now, too.

I think the only thing the new Turfway can add may be some outside heaters, and then I think you are set.

OVERALL THOUGHTS

I was let down in the best way.

If you’re going in thinking: “I hope this looks like Keeneland?” Well, you will be let down.

But…

If you’re going thinking: “Turfway Park?” Well, you will be very happy and pleased.

The construction team didn’t really destroy “Turfway.” They just improved it. It will still remind you of Turfway from a customer/horse racing fan experience and remind you of the “Good Turfway,” not the bad.

And I think the best thing about this new and improved Turfway Park that I didn’t even mention yet?

Well, they kept the “Dollar Date Night” promotion, and classed it up by calling it “Turfway Legacy Night.” That is the best complement I can give.

It is still Turfway.

Final Thoughts:

I’ll leave you with this final thought:

Go out and experience things for yourself! Go out and come to your own conclusion. Don’t let what you might have read online (even this) sway your thoughts.

You just may be surprised and delighted, too.