In a meeting Saturday on the backstretch with a group of about 50 horsemen, Gulfstream president Scott Savin detailed Magna Entertainment Corporation's plan to create a rivalry between its flagship tracks, Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita, by running a daylong series of races on each coast that would pit Florida and California horses against each other.
"It would be a league concept," he said, describing a plan by which Magna would foot the bill for 36 Gulfstream horses, each accompanied by a groom, to fly to Santa Anita for six starter allowance races, each with a purse as high as $80,000, on Feb. 25. Approximately two weeks later, the process would be reversed and Gulfstream would host California runners.
As an enticement, the connections of each participating horse would receive a $6,000 appearance fee.
"Six jockeys would go with the horses, and we would use team silks," Savin continued, "Eventually we would have teams for each of our tracks that would compete head to head." Plans are also underway for proposition wagers on the series, and Savin projected that the races could see increases in handle of up to $500,000 each.
"It's not a bad idea," said trainer Neil Howard, who agreed to consider if he had any runners that would fit the races, "Although it's extremely difficult to ship horses across country. And there are a lot of costs that you incur in addition to just the shipping."