The Florida Thoroughbred Breeders' and Owners' Association, Gulfstream Park, and the Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association have agreed to significant changes in the Florida Sire Stakes program to be run at Gulfstream in 2015, it was announced Dec. 9.
There will be $600,000 in purse increases to the FSS races run for 2-year-olds, plus the addition of two divisions of three races for each sex in the 3-year-old ranks with purses totaling $900,000.
The 2015 FSS for juveniles will be made up of the $200,000 Desert Vixen and the $200,000 Dr. Fager Stakes, the $300,000 Susan's Girl and $300,000 Affirmed Stakes, while the My Dear Girl and the In Reality Stakes will offer purses of $500,000 each. The distances for each of the juvenile races will remain the same as will the time of year for each race.
The sophomores will be running in yet-to-be-named first, second and third legs with all six races offering $150,000 purses. The first legs will be run at seven furlongs on the main track, the second legs at a mile on turf, and the third legs at 1 1/16 miles on dirt.
The Florida Sire Stakes has, in the past, been six races run in two divisions; three races in each division for 2-year-old fillies and for 2-year-old colts and geldings.
Last year, the juvenile filly division was made up of the $100,000 Desert Vixen Stakes run at six furlongs in August, the $250,000 Susan's Girl Stakes run at seven furlongs in September and the $350,000 My Dear Girl Stakes run at 1 1/16-miles in October. The juvenile colt and gelding division was made up of the $100,000 Dr. Fager Stakes run at six furlongs in August, the $250,000 Affirmed Stakes at seven furlongs in September and the $350,000 In Reality Stakes at 1 1/16 miles in October. These purse levels were the highest they had been in several years.
There will be $5,000 FSS supplements for 30 select maiden special weight races (15 for fillies and 15 for colts and geldings) to be available for FSS eligible horses who win one of those 30 races to be run at Gulfstream before the FSS stakes begin in August, 2015.
FTBOA president George Russell expressed his satisfaction with the enhancements to the series.
"This is a very good thing," Russell said. "The FSS for Florida-breds is an important program administered by the FTBOA. The recent running of our modified FSS program this past season at Gulfstream clearly showed that there is a growing enthusiasm for it. It can only have a positive impact for our members, stallions, sales and Florida-bred racing in our Sunshine State."
Lonny Powell, the CEO and executive vice president of the FTBOA, is also excited about 2015.
"Already, the FSS has had a major impact on Gulfstream business and racing," Powell remarked. "Our October 2014 FSS finals rewarded all involved with the single largest handle day of the Gulfstream meet as well as for the 32 years the series was run at Calder prior to 2014. Our two final contests will have purses increased to $500,000, giving the FTBOA, Gulfstream and the marketplace a major racing day with $1 million on the line for the top Florida-bred/Florida-sired, juvenile thoroughbreds. This will be a great platform for the FTBOA and Gulfstream to build interest, awareness, participation and wagering on the series and day.
"While the core FSS program will always be based heavily on bringing our best 2 year-olds to the track, we will be undertaking initial expansion plans into some select races for 3 year-olds. Gulfstream and our FHBPA partners share our enthusiasm for expanding the FSS into the 3 year-old calendar with even the possibility for expanding to older horses in the years ahead, provided we can keep the program growing and supported."
Fred Brei, who is chairman of the FTBOA racing and stakes committee, commends the effort to further FSS enhancements and expansion to include 3-year-olds.
"It is exciting to see the FSS growing and getting back to what it used to be with national recognition like it had during the height of its popularity," Brei said. "We have an extraordinary stakes program for 2-year-olds that continues to improve and the beginning of a great program for 3-year-olds. Now those horses that may not have been ready for stakes action as 2-year-olds will have a chance to compete for this money as sophomores.
"In recent years our stallion owners sacrificed much in order to keep the old FSS in place at Calder," Brei continued. "Now that we have relocated the series to Gulfstream with the FTBOA now in charge of the program and the single largest contributor to its purses, much of that hard work has paid off to the benefit of Florida-breds, Florida breeders, their breeding programs and our members."
FHBPA president Phil Combest said horsemen are very happy about the new format.
"I've talked to a lot of Florida horsemen about the new format for the Florida Sire Stakes," Combest said. "Obviously, we're extremely pleased about the higher purses in the 2-year-old series. But the horsemen are also really excited about the new 3-year-old series format. It's a great idea.
"We've all nominated 2-year-olds who bucked shins or had some other minor injury and missed the entire 2-year-old series. Or maybe the horse just matured late or turned out to be a grass horse. This new series gives those horses a shot at Sire Stakes purses. I think it will encourage more breeders to nominate to the Sire Stakes, as well. All in all, there's a lot of positive buzz about the new series format."