Florida's biggest series of 2-year-old races moves to Gulfstream Park Aug. 9 when the track holds the first two races in the newly renamed Florida Sire Stakes series.
The move of the series is part of the fallout of the Gulfstream dates dispute with Calder Casino & Race Course that led to the two tracks racing head-to-head on weekends from July 2013 through June 2014. They announced a settlement in July.
Gulfstream president Tim Ritvo said the settlement with Calder will enable his track to build a "2-year-old program that surpasses anything Florida has seen." Gulfstream now holds the summer racing dates as well, and that could be one benefit for the Hallendale track if it succeeds in recruiting more of its winter meet horsemen to keep some horses at Gulfstream year-round.
Last fall the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders' and Owners' Association announced it would shift the stallion stakes series to Gulfstream starting in 2014. The FTBOA said it expected Gulfstream would do more than Calder to promote the series, and it was concerned that Calder would continue to cut purses for the six races.
This year Gulfstream and the FTBOA have guaranteed total purses of $1.4 million for the series, compared with $1 million last year.
The tradition of the former Florida Stallion Stakes will be maintained partly through the presence of the trainer/owner teams of Gilbert Campbell and Kathleen O'Connell and of Fred Brei and Stanley Gold. They have dominated the stallion stakes since 2009, and both have several homebreds that are contenders in each division this year.
Sing Praises (by Hear No Evil ), owned by Brei and trained by Gold, is the likely favorite in the $100,000 Dr. Fager for males. Herecomesmisskitty (by West Acre), owned by Campbell and trained by O'Connell, and the David Fawkes-trained Katie's Kiss (by Kantharos ) are likely favorites in the $100,000 Desert Vixen for fillies. Both stakes are at six furlongs on dirt.
Those also were the names and distances of the opening races in the Florida Stallion Stakes from 1982 through last year when it was held at Calder. The series is open only to Florida-bred sons and daughters of Florida-registered stallions whose owners have nominated them and paid sustaining fees.
Brei and Gold swept the male division with Jackson Bend in 2009 and Fort Loudon in 2011, and swept the female division with Awesome Feather in 2010. Campbell and O'Connell swept last year's female division with Scandalous Act.
The Florida Sire Stakes will continue Sept. 6 with the Affirmed for males and the Susan's Girl for fillies; both are run at seven furlongs and carry $250,000 purses. The series will conclude Oct. 4 with the In Reality for males and the My Dear Girl for fillies; both are run at 1 1/16 miles on dirt and carry $350,000 purses.