Gulfstream Park Racing & Casino announced its 2008 stakes schedule Aug. 24, which is highlighted by the $1-million Florida Derby (gr. I) and a pair of changes in the Holy Bull Stakes (gr. III).
One of the nation’s foremost preps for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), the Florida Derby will be held March 29. In its history, 38 3-year-olds have come out of the Florida Derby to win 51 Triple Crown events.
The $150,000 Holy Bull, also a top prep for 3-year-olds, has been moved to the end of the meet rather than near the beginning of the meet as a lead-in to the Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II). Next year, the event will be held April 12 as the last stakes of the meet. In addition, the distance of the Holy Bull has been changed from one mile to 1 3/16 miles. It will now be the longest Kentucky Derby prep.
“In making a few adjustments to the Holy Bull, which has been one of our most attractive and competitive races, we give owners and trainers the opportunity to compete for graded stakes money just a few weeks before the Kentucky Derby,” Gulfstream racing manager Bernie Hettel said. “While their horse may not be ready to take on the best at a mile and an eighth the last Saturday in March, there is the possibility that, after racing in the Holy Bull, it will blossom to take on the best the first Saturday in May.”
The Gulfstream meet begins Jan. 3 with the inaugural running of the South Beach Stakes. In all, 35 stakes are on the bill, 29 of them graded.
One of the most popular events is Sunshine Millions day, scheduled for Jan. 26 next year. About $3.4 million in purses will be awarded for the eight-race card, with four races at Santa Anita Park, which shares the event.
There will be three $500,000 events at Gulfstream, including the Sunshine Millions Turf and Distaff, and the Donn Handicap (gr. I), to be run Feb. 2. Other notable changes are the shift of the Mac Diarmida Stakes (gr. IIIT), which used to be run in late January but is now slated for March 2; and the elimination of six- and seven-stakes-a-day programs.
“We’re very excited about this meeting,”Gulfstream Park president and general manager Bill Murphy said.
Said new racing secretary Bill Couch: “The focus will be on competition – every day, every race – and stakes are the marquee events. After a spring and summer of race analysis and conversations with horsemen, we decided to experiment with a few things, and I have every confidence that the adjustments we have made will be well received by fans and horsemen.”