The 3-year-old stakes schedule will take on a slightly different look in 2007, due mostly to the return of Fair Grounds and several changes to the Gulfstream Park stakes structure, which will again run the $1-million Florida Derby (gr. I) five weeks before the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
This year, Gulfstream ran the one-mile Aventura Stakes, followed by three 1 1/8-mile stakes –- the Holy Bull (gr. III), Fountain of Youth (gr. II), and Florida Derby. That proved successful, with Barbaro winning the Holy Bull and Florida Derby and then going on to capture the Run for the Roses, becoming the first horse since Needles in 1956 to win the Derby off a layoff of over four weeks.
But, with the Aventura having no impact on the 3-year-old picture and complaints of too many 1 1/8-mile races, that race was changed to a seven-furlong event and moved to March 31, the same day as the Florida Derby, following the pattern of having a seven-furlong stakes on the same day as a major Derby prep. Unlike past years, however, the Swale Stakes (gr. II) - normally run on Fountain of Youth day - will be run on Holy Bull day, with the Hutcheson Stakes (gr. II) - normally run on Holy Bull day - now scheduled for Fountain of Youth day.
With the Aventura gone from this year's spot, the Holy Bull will be run at a mile instead of 1 1/8 miles, serving as a more logical prep for the nine-furlong Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby.
The traditional Fair Grounds stakes – the grade III Lecomte, run on Jan. 13; the Risen Star (gr. III), run on Feb. 10; and the $600,000 Louisiana Derby (gr. II), run on March 10 - return to Fair Grounds, which was closed this winter due to the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. The Risen Star was run at Louisiana Downs on Jan. 14 this year, and was won by Lawyer Ron, who then swept the three major 3-year-old stakes at Oaklawn Park.
The Santa Anita stakes schedule remains virtually the same, starting with the six-furlong San Miguel Stakes on Jan. 7, followed by the San Rafael (gr. II) Jan. 13; Sham Stakes (gr. III) Feb. 3; San Vicente (gr. II) Feb. 11; grade II Robert B. Lewis Stakes (formerly the Santa Catalina Stakes, which, of course, was named after the late Robert Lewis, who passed away this past winter); San Felipe Stakes (gr. II) March 17; and the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) April 7.
Oaklawn Park also will follow its usual stakes schedule, beginning with the one-mile Southwest Stakes Feb. 19, Rebel Stakes (gr. III) March 17, and $1-million Arkansas Derby April 14. The six-furlong Mountain Valley Stakes will be run on Feb. 24.
There will be no changes at Turfway Park, which will run the WEBN Stakes Feb. 3, John Battaglia Memorial March 3, and the Lane's End Stakes (gr. II) three weeks later on March 24, with the Rushaway Stakes the same day.
Tampa Bay Dows, which attracted a number of top-class horses this year, due in good part to the plethora of 1 1/8-mile races at Gulfstream, will run the seven-furlong Pasco Stakes on Feb. 7, the 1 1/16-mile Sam F. Davis Stakes, which featured Bluegrass Cat and Deputy Glitters this year, on Feb. 17, and $300,000 Tampa Bay Derby (gr. III) March 17.
Sunland Park will try to lure some top 3-year-olds next year with the $600,000 WinStar Derby on March 18.