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Dec 29, 2006

AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD

By: JOE GIRARDI


            The official start to winter in the racing world is the start of the Gulfstream Park meeting which opens its doors for live racing on January 3rd. The meeting runs through April 22nd and is a very key race meeting when it comes down to the Triple Crown races.

            In addition to the live racing there will be many other activities that will draw you to Gulfstream Park. There is now a casino at Gulfstream Park that will offer slot machines to those who play the one armed bandits and there is also a poker room which is sure to draw attention with the huge poker boom in this country. In addition to the slot machines and poker there is sports bar where you can watch the games, play pool and grab something to eat in between your gambling activities.

            If you are traveling to Gulfstream Park for the quality racing there will be a few changes from last year that should have the customer wanting to comeback. There were some complaints last year about the new look of the racetrack. Many felt the paddock, which was new made it very difficult to see the horses in the walking ring. The grandstand which also had its problems according to the customers were changed for this upcoming meeting. The paddock, winner’s circle and the grandstand have all been renovated for this upcoming meeting. There is a new saddling area that was constructed adjacent to the walking ring and the indoor area will be reservered for use during only inclement weather. This will help many of the patrons to be able to see the horses and it should also help with Gulfstream’s simulcast signal.

            Stadium seating that will accommodate more than 1000 people is being constructed in the north park area of the grandstand and it should be ready by opening day. The winner’s circle has been expanded and the addition of more mutuel machines will also be in use. You normally don’t see this at many tracks across the country, management actually listening to its fans, this is a huge step in the right direction and should make going to Gulfstream Park more exciting.

            Just like most of the big meetings across the country there will be many stakes races at Gulfstream Park throughout the meeting. The first weekend there are a few Grade III’s to start things off. However the big days during this meeting will start on Saturday January 27th. This day features Florida breds versus California breds in multiple divisions run at two different racetracks on the same day. Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita will again be the host tracks for Sunshine Millions day.

            The following week on February 3rd Gulfstream Park will host the Grade I Donn Handicap which usually attracts the top handicap horses in the country and on that same day they will also host the Grade II Swale Stakes for three year olds as they start their road to the 2007 Kentucky Derby. The Holy Bull stakes for three year olds, the Deputy Minister stakes for older horses and the Suwannee River Handicap for older fillies on mares on the turf, all Grade III races will also be contested on this day.

            Three weeks later on February 24th the Grade I Gulfstream Park Breeders’ Cup turf, a Grade I for four years old and upward will be contested. You don’t have to wait long for another big day as one week later they will host four Grade II races, the Fountain of Youth, a stepping stone for the three year olds, the Gulfstream Park Handicap for older horses, the Richter Scale for older sprinters and the Hutcheson Stakes for three year olds at the one turn distance of 7 ½ furlongs.

            The biggest day of all at Gulfstream is March 31st, Florida Derby day a Grade I worth a million dollars which will serve as a final prep for many horses headed to the Derby. Last year’s winner BARBARO went on to win the Kentucky Derby before getting hurt in the Preakness stakes. In addition to the Florida Derby there will be four other stake races that day with three of them Grade III’s.

            The top trainers and jockeys will all be down in Florida plying their trade and this will make for a very interesting meeting from a betting standpoint. Top trainer Todd Pletcher is suspended until early February and some of his horses may get overlooked especially by those who don’t know that he is on suspension. See how that plays out for first few weeks and see if you can take advantage. The jockey colony will be very strong as usual and with John Velazquez and Edgar Prado



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