Florida Derby Remains Five-Week Prep

The Florida Derby (gr. I) will once again be run five weeks prior to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), one year after Barbaro silenced those critical of using the event as a final prep for the Run for the Roses.

The 2007 Florida Derby, which will be run on March 31, was one of 45 stakes races announced by Gulfstream Park Sept. 28, a lineup that features 31 graded stakes and total purses of $9.25 million.

Barbaro won the Kentucky Derby without a prep following his triumph in the Florida Derby, becoming the first horse to capture the first jewel of the Triple Crown off such a break since Needles triumphed off a six-week layoff in 1956.

Gulfstream racing secretary David Bailey said there was some off-season discussion about changing the Florida Derby to a more traditional four-week distance, a move which would have packaged it with the April 7 Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) at Santa Anita Park. Both Gulfstream and Santa Anita are owned by Magna Entertainment Corp.

"We thought about having it go with the Santa Anita Derby, but have found out some trainers and owners like more time between races," said Bailey. "The spacing works better for them."

But Bailey modified other parts of the 3-year-old stakes schedule, a move he feels will ultimately give trainers more opportunities to test their runners at progressive distances.

Both the Holy Bull Stakes (gr. II) and Davona Dale Stakes (g. II) for fillies have been shortened a furlong to a mile, while the Swale Stakes (g. II) was dropped a half-furlong to 6-½ furlongs. All three races will be run on Feb. 4, 2007. Last year, the Swale was run on March 4 as a companion feature to the Fountain of Youth (gr. II) and Gulfstream Park Handicap (gr. II).

Among other prominent events is the renewal of the Sunshine Millions on Jan. 27, a package that features state-breds from Florida and California competing against each other in races at Gulfstream and Santa Anita.