The Pegasus sculpture. (Photo: Ines Hegedus-Garcia/CC BY 2.0)

It would be hard to mistake Gulfstream Racetrack’s Pegasus Park for your standard-issue giant animal roadside attraction, like the Jersey Shore’s Lucy the Elephant or Atlanta’s Big Chicken.

First, the 110- foot, $30 million Pegasus sculpture isn’t really by the side of any road. It is located on the grounds of a thoroughbred racetrack in Hallandale Beach, Florida. The Pegasus is part of a retail and entertainment complex adjacent to the track and casino; it shares a parking lot with The Container Store and Pottery Barn. 

Second, it’s not really a Pegasus so much as a fire-breathing dragon.

A postcard for the Gulfstream Park Race Course, c. 1930s. (Photo: Boston Public Library/CC BY 2.0)

The Pegasus is the brainchild of Frank Stronach of Canada’s The Stronach Group. A native of Austria, Stronach moved to Canada where he made his fortune in auto parts. As of February 2016, Forbes magazine estimated his net worth at $1.4 billion. The 83-year-old has made major headlines across the globe for his outsized projects: After Hurricane Katrina, he financed a modular home community in Simmesport, Louisiana, for displaced families from New Orleans that became known as Canadaville. In 2013, he founded a political party in Austria called “Team Stronach.”

These days he focuses on his passion for horse racing. The Stronach group owns racetracks and equine facilities around the world, including Hallandale Beach’s Gulfstream. Stronach’s vision behind the Pegasus, per the website, is to “celebrate the contributions that horses have made to human civilization.” 

Gulfstream calls its Pegasus and Dragon the “iconic centerpiece” of Pegasus Park and “the world’s largest horse sculpture and one of the largest bronze statues ever made.” The dragon breathes real balls of fire into the air as fountains shoot water into the air around the sculpture. The soundtrack for the whole show is reportedly Ricky Martin’s “Livin’ La Vida Loca,” but that show hasn’t officially debuted—it’s slated for spring of 2016. 

While nothing can realistically compete with the Disney/Universal entertainment industrial complex in Central Florida, the Pegasus represents some of the best and worst that Florida has to offer. With its enormous size and its enormous cost, the Pegasus has the flash and extravagance that South Florida is known for around the world. Sure, there’s a dignified statue of Cigar—Horse of the Year in 1995 and 1996—on the grounds of the track itself, but with the Pegasus, Stronach has taken the idea of equine speed, grace, and dexterity to its ultimate expression. The Pegasus, in all of its Dragon-smiting glory, for good or ill, has swagger.

The Hallandale Beach Pegasus is bigger than ‘Big Betsy’, the giant lobster sculpture in the Florida Keys. (Photo: karlnorling/CC BY 2.0)

Jayson Hanes, a Tampa resident who was in Hallandale Beach for a conference, took the opportunity to film the Pegasus with his drone for his YouTube channel. “We could see this large horse thing from our hotel window and we wanted to get a closer look,” Hanes says. Hanes’ video gives a whole difference perspective on the whole size and scope of the Pegasus. “I was surprised by the detail in the sculpture,” he says. 

The point of a roadside attraction or a Vegas Strip spectacle has never been practicality. Stronach himself told City & Shore Magazine in 2015 that he wants Gulfstream and the Pegasus to be an international equestrian destination. And, as for the statue itself? “Call it a trademark, call it a destination. When people look at it, they will say, wow, that’s crazy.”