Florida Sire Stakes Moves to Gulfstream Park

Florida Sire Stakes Moves to Gulfstream Park
Photo: Coglianese Photos

Florida's premier state-bred juvenile racing showcase has ended its 32-year history with Calder Casino & Race Course and begins afresh across town at Gulfstream Park.

The Florida Thoroughbred Breeders' and Owners' Association announced Sept. 5 that the Florida Sire Stakes will have a new home in 2014.

"Frank Stronach's team, led by track president Tim Ritvo, really did a masterful job in putting together a presentation that packaged both economic- and marketing-related considerations into a very comprehensive and forward-looking plan that really put the best interests of the Florida Thoroughbred breeder and owner on the national center stage," said Lonny Powell, CEO of the state association. "Those elements, combined with their outstanding facility and proven big-event experience, as well as solid support from the horsemen, should make our program a first-class event in every sense."

Powell did recognize the long history the series has had with Calder and lauded the Churchill Downs Inc.-owned track for "the historic role they have played in helping make Florida 2-year-old racing some of the top racing of its kind in North America."

The Florida Sire Stakes, formerly the Florida Stallion Stakes, is a popular summer series of six races for 2-year-olds sired by nominated Florida stallions. Created by Ocala breeder and owner Dan Lasater, six winners out of this racing series have gone on to earn Eclipse Awards: Awesome Feather, the 2010 juvenile filly champion; Big Drama, the 2010 sprint champion; Holy Bull, the 1994 Horse of the Year and 3-year-old champion; Smile, the 1986 sprint champion; Brave Raj, the 1986 juvenile filly champion; and Not Surprising, the 1995 sprint champion.

"We look forward to our continued work with both tracks and our friends at the FHBPA in making Florida-bred racing at all ages and levels even more competitive and lucrative as a leader on the national breeding and racing scene," Powell said.

John Marshall, Calder's vice president and general manager of racing, said the track was proud to have hosted the series for so long and wished the FTBOA well.

"For over three decades, Calder satisfied a unique niche for the Thoroughbred industry by hosting the nation's top racing program for 2-year-olds," Marshall said. "During this period, Calder provided free year-round stabling and training facilities for more than 15,000 2-year-olds. The privilege of hosting the Florida Stallion Stakes was a fair reward for the demand on Calder's resources throughout the year. Without the Florida Sire Series, Calder will need to examine the plans for its 2-year-old program moving forward."

Kent Stirling, executive director of the Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, said the move to Gulfstream Park should give the series more relevance.

"The purses of the former Florida Stallion Stakes Series have grown stagnant over the last 30 some years," he said. "By moving the event to Gulfstream, the total purses will increase $300,000 and become more relevant again, and, of course, we are all aware of Gulfstream's ability to promote and market an event that was struggling, much as they did for the Claiming Crown."

Gulfstream Park recently agreed to host the Claiming Crown through 2015 and has raised the total purse to $1 million for this year's event, to be run Dec. 7. An eighth race has also been added to the program, which is operated jointly by the National HBPA and the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association.

Gulfstream Park president Tim Ritvo said the Florida Sire Stakes provides an opportunity for the racetrack to build a strong summer racing program.

"We are committed to increase purses and market and publicize the Florida Sire Stakes to bring it back to its rightful status as a major Thoroughbred event, one that produces stakes winners and champions," Ritvo said. "We believe we can help build the Sire Stakes as we have the Claiming Crown."

Gulfstream Park has been running a summer meet this year for the first time in its history. Because a dates agreement could not be worked out with Calder—Florida's traditional summertime meet—both South Florida tracks are running head-to-head.

The Florida Stallion Stakes has a three-race open division and a three-race filly division. This year’s two final races in the series will be at Calder Oct. 12 as part of its annual Festival of the Sun card.

Gilbert Campbell and Kathleen O’Connell will attempt to become the first owner and first trainer to sweep both Stallion Stakes divisions in the same year.

The colt My Brown Eyed Guy and the filly Scandalous Act, both bred and owned by Campbell, won the first two legs of their divisions and will be seeking sweeps.

My Brown Eyed Guy will be in the In Reality Stakes and Scandalous Act will be in the My Dear Girl Stakes. Both have $300,000 purses and are 1 1/16 miles on dirt.

Jim Freer contributed to this article.

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