Gulfstream kicks off march to Triple Crown series

Jan 2, 2001 11:36 AM

Julie Krone is coming to Gulfstream Park. No, the first woman inducted into the National Hall of Fame is not coming out of retirement. However, the squeaky-voiced Belmont Stakes winner has been featured throughout South Florida via television, radio and print advertising inviting all to attend the races this winter at the Hallandale oval. If the excitement, provided by Gulfstream’s new ambassador is any indication over the next 10 weeks, this 63-day meet should be extraordinary.

Gulfstream Park will commence its 2001 meet Wednesday, January 3rd and run through March 16. The year will feature a record stakes purse distribution of $5.3 million which exceeds the previous $5.25 million set the last two seasons.

The highlight of the upcoming meet will undoubtedly be the 50th anniversary running of the Florida Derby (G1) on Saturday, March 10. This year’s "Run For The Orchids" will become Florida’s richest thoroughbred race in state history (excluding Breeder’s Cup Championship events). The purse represents a quarter-of-a-million dollar increase over the $750,000 purse offered during the 2000 meet, and thus becomes the most lucrative event for three-year-olds prior to the Triple Crown.

In the 49 previous years, 48 Triple Crown events have been won by 35 three-year-olds from the Florida Derby: 18 Kentucky Derby winners, 17 Preakness champions and 13 Belmont Stakes victors. Such past national champions include Spectacular Bid, Holy Bull, Unbridled, Northern Dancer, Swale, Thunder Gulch, Nashua, Snow Chief, Needles and Tim Tam.

Two of the names that are being tossed about as possibly being set to tackle this year’s event is Stronach Stable’s Macho Uno, who took the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile (G1) in his 2000 finale. His trainer said his star colt will make his 3-year-old debut at Gulfstream after some much needed rest up north in Ocala.

Another Derby hopeful is Celtic Pride Stable’s (Boston Celtic Coach/President Rick Pitino’s) A.P. Valentine. The Champagne Stakes (G1) winner just might be the first Florida Derby victory for trainer Nick Zito.

The handicap division will be headed by the $500,000 Donn Handicap (G1), which will be contested on February 3rd at a mile and one-eighth. The $200,000 Gulfstream Park Handicap (G1) follows at a mile and one-quarter on March 3rd.

The $200,000 Gulfstream Park Breeder’s Cup Handicap (G1) on February 10th at one mile and three-eighths will test the talented turfers over the Gulfstream’s grass course. This usually attracts an international cast of entries, many of whom return later in the meet for the $250,000 Pan American Handicap (G2).

The sprinters will go to the post in the $100,000 Mr. Prospector Handicap (G3) at three-eighths of a mile on January 15th and the $100,000 Deputy Minister Handicap (G3) at six and one-half furlongs on February 4th in a carefully scheduled series leading to the $200,000 Gulfstream Park Breeder’s Cup Sprint Championship Handicap (G2) (lets see them get all that on the saddle cloths) at seven furlongs on March 9th.

Racing will be conducted daily (except for Tuesdays) with a 10 a.m. Vegas post.

Here are some quick Gulfstream "Golden Nuggets" from Jim Mazur’s "The Gulfstream Handicapper 2001."

The Gulfstream stretch is only 952 feet, much shorter than Belmont or Churchill Downs.

Last year, there was a high number of wire-to-wire and stalkers on the turf.

Closers did best at the distance of 6½ furlongs.

The rail post-position produced only 9% winners at 6 furlongs.

At any distance, the two outside posts (11 and 12) performed poorly: 2-for-40 at 6f; 2-for-61 at 7f, and only 2-for-46 at 11/16 miles.

Trainers to keep an eye on: Alter, Leo Azpurua, Bond, Clement, Flint, Hatchett, Hiles, Lotti, Lukas, Matz, McKnight, Morales, Mott, Passero, Pilotti, Pletcher, Schulhofer, Serpe, Standridge, Tesher, Turner, Vivian, Volk, Walder and Wright.