American Turf Magazine
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Dec 29, 2005

AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD

By: JOE GIRARDI


For a year now Florida racing fans and horse racing fans all across the country have anticipated the 2006 opening of Gulfstream Park. Last year, Gulfstream held their meeting out of temporary tents after putting in new racing surfaces and tearing down the grandstand. They have been building the new grandstand since day one and it is almost completed. Although they will not have it finished for opening day it will be a lot better than the temporary tents they had last year. You can check the progress of the redevelopment of Gulfstream at www.gulfstreampark.com.

The 2006 meeting will opens its doors on January 4th and will run through April 23rd. In January they will run five days a week with two dark days on Monday and Tuesday with the exception of January 16th, when they will be opened. In February and March they will only have on dark day at Gulfstream, Tuesdays will be the only dark day. When the calendar turns to April and most of the horses are shipping up north they will go back to two dark days, Mondays and Tuesdays.

There will be some major races held this winter at Gulfstream, many that will impact year end awards and most importantly the three year old picture leading into the Kentucky Derby. On January 28th, Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita will host Sunshine Millions, races that pit Florida breds versus California breds with each track hosting four races each. The following week Gulfstream will host its first Grade I of the season in the Donn Handicap. This race was won by last year by SAINT LIAM, the probable Horse of the Year and the second place finisher was ROSES IN MAY, who went on to win the Dubai World Cup. A few weeks later the Gulfstream Park Breeders’ Cup Turf, another Grade I which is run on the turf at 1 and 7/16th’s miles with a purse of $250,000. The biggest race of the meeting is the Grade I Florida Derby that will be run on April 1st, 2006. This race is for three year olds at 1 and 1/8th miles with a purse of $1,000,000. This race is a major prep on the road to the Kentucky Derby. That will be the last day of graded stakes at this meeting as many of the bigger outfits ship to the NYRA tracks or Keeneland in Kentucky for their spring meeting.

When betting the Gulfstream Park meeting taking a look at the jockeys and trainers isn’t a bad idea. Many of the top riders and conditioners point towards this meeting and try to have their stock ready. Last year’s leading rider was Edgar Prado with 62 wins, just two more than John Velazquez who was second. Even you thought the top two jockeys were close the top nine jockeys were separated by only 12 wins. A jockey to look for when looking for value is Chris Decarlo who had a good meeting last year with 23 wins and a win % of 13.8%. He rides for Todd Pletcher as the second rider behind John Velazquez but will offer more value at the windows. Another jockey that can hold his own that had a good meeting last year was Roberto Alvarado Jr. who had 13 wins with a winning percentage of 13.3%. He rides most of the Scott Lake horses and should also value at the windows.

Last year’s leading trainer was Todd Pletcher who had 36 wins. Bill Mott and Daniel Hurtak finished 15 wins behind with 21 wins. A few trainers that may offer value at the windows that had good meets last year are George Weaver and Mike Mitchell. Weaver who didn’t have a great year in 2005 certainly started off well at Gulfstream with 11 wins for 48 starters with a winning percentage of 22.9%. Maybe he can get back to his winning ways with this meeting and the value should be there. Mike Mitchell who is known for his training in Southern California, came here last year and had a huge meeting. 18 wins from 61 starters for a 29.5% winning percentage and his in the money percentage of 63.9% was also very impressive. Mitchell likes to claim horses and is very tough off the claim but he can also train high quality horses, beware of his stock, especially at a price. Good Luck!!



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