- A rather inglorious opening day at Gulfstream on Wednesday, with no stakes race on the card, and no entries permitted from horses stabled at Payson Park due to the herpes virus scare. The quarantine there is scheduled to be lifted in time for entries taken for Saturday's card, which will include the Hal's Hope, for which Sweetnorthernsaint and Strong Contender are possibilities.
There will be, however, a new saddling area, and 750 grandstand seats in the North Park area, which sounds like it's intended to be an outdoor picnic-type area, something that was sorely missed last year.
“Frank Stronach heard the fans and under his direction we took steps to get them closer to the game,” said Bill Murphy, Vice President and General Manager of Racing. “One of those steps is the further development of North Park. Fans will have the opportunity to enjoy the Florida sunshine while getting up close and personal watching the world’s greatest sport. Combine the proximity that North Park offers with free seating and nearby amenities of all kinds, and I think it’s the greatest bargain in racing.” [Gulfstream Press Release]That's Frank for you, always listening to the fans. They'll also be a new track announcer in the unfailingly precise Larry Collmus, so you'll at least know exactly when your horse has entered the starting gate.
And, of course, slot machines, and the higher purses that result from them.
The featured third race, a second-level allowance at nine furlongs for older horses, offers a purse of $48,000, including Florida Owners Awards. The same race a year ago was worth only $35,000. [Daily Racing Form]An additional 700 machines in addition to the present 517 are expected to be installed before the meet comes to a close in April.
- If you plan on going out to Gulfstream, make sure to bring enough money. Florida lawmakers, looking out for our best interests, prohibited the presence of ATM machines on the premises of slots facilities. The track will actually offer a shuttle service that will take fans off the track property to their choice of two bank branches on nearby Hallandale Beach Boulevard. [DRF]
- After Barbaro won it last year, The Tropical Park Derby garnered a bit more attention on Monday. And David Vivian, the trainer of winner Soldier's Dancer, is looking to follow in the Derby champ's footsteps. Vivian believes Soldier's Dancer could transfer his stakes-winning form across the grass onto the dirt. He said the Feb. 3 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream could be the gelding's next start. [Sun-Sentinal]
- Rene Douglas, as well as the other riders banned from Tampa Bay and Philly Park, will be prohibited from riding at Gulfstream as well. But Douglas at least got in one day at Hawthorne at the track's closing day.
"We can't operate blindly," Hawthorne track president Tim Carey had previously said about the decision to permit Douglas to ride. "Unless we are given a ruling, or are presented significant information on the issue that is preventing the riders in question from being allowed to compete at these tracks, we will not pass judgement. They will be viewed in good standing." [Bloodhorse]