Mild weather lures Canadian horse trainers to Turf Paradise

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by Steve Bodinet

azfamily.com

Posted on February 26, 2013 at 3:41 PM

Updated Thursday, Feb 28 at 9:57 AM

PHOENIX --  Every year, the Valley's sunshine and mild weather attracts horse-racing trainers and owners from our neighbors to the North, in Canada.

3TV's Steve Bodinet paid a visit to Turf Paradise Monday, where the equestrian snowbirds are giving the facility, and the whole Valley, an economic boost.

"Among the 2,000 horses that we have here, 325 of them are from Canada," says Turf Paradise general manager, Vincent Francia. "That represents 160 Canadian owners, and 25 trainers."

Phoenix racetrack season is just getting started, while the seasons at many of Canada’s tracks are winding down.

Trainer Phil Hall comes back to the Valley year after year. “The horses fit pretty well here. You can’t beat the weather. I won my first race here 23 years ago,” Hall said.  And he brings more fellow Canadians here as well. “I was thinking about buying a home here. I’ve had my family come down and friends. There’s a lot more Canadians here this year.

Trainer Jared Brown is based in Winnipeg, but he spends his winters at Turf Paradise. Like most of the other trainers he spends a considerable amount of money in the Phoenix area covering expenses such as grain, hay, and housing.

During a typical season Brown says he spends at least $75,000. But he's not complaining. “The biggest thing is the weather and the timing is perfect with Winnipeg closing (for the season),” Brown said. He says the Canadians all know each other and he enjoys being with them as they gather in Arizona.

Robertino Diodoro is a mainstay at Turf Paradise. The Canadian trainer has been bringing horses here for about nine years. This year he has 48 horses at the Phoenix track. During the season, which runs from October to early May, he will likely spend $160,000 locally.

He also says many of the owners are spending locally, providing a shot in the arm for the Valley's economy.. A number of the owners he works with have bought homes in the Phoenix area. Diodoro said, "All my owners just love it down here," he says. "They've bought places down here over the last few years. They said you really can't beat the weather, the city, there's lots to do.They like the lifestyle down here."

Turf Paradise is also popular with visitors who just like to watch the ponies. One of those winter visitors tells us:  "It's only about zero degrees where I am right now, so I'm really enjoying this."

The Turf Paradise season goes to May 7, 2013 with live racing Fridays through Tuesdays. Turf Paradise opened its doors in 1956 and has operated at the same location (19th Avenue and Bell) ever since, making it Arizona’s first sports franchise.

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