01/03/2009 12:00AM

Big crowd, performances for opener

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Notonthesamepage romps to an 8 1/4-length victory in the Spectacular Bid Stakes on Saturday's opening day program at Gulfsteam Park.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - A huge crowd that exceeded expectations was treated to a huge performance by a 3-year-old who ran exactly the way his trainer predicted as Gulfstream Park's 2009 meeting got off to a rousing start Saturday.

Notonthesamepage, whose 2-year-old campaign began auspiciously but ended in disappointment, ran seven other 3-year-olds off their feet in the six-furlong Spectacular Bid Stakes. The son of Catienus took control from near the inside shortly after the start under jockey Elvis Trujillo and then drew off to a decisive 8 1/4-length decision over the 8-5 You Luckie Mann. Silver Valor, the 6-5 favorite, finished a disappointing fourth.

Notonthesamepage covered six furlongs in 1:08.48, just .02 of a second off the track record set by Tiger nearly three years earlier. He paid $11.40.

For much of 2008, Notonthesamepage had the highest Beyer Speed Figure of any 2-year-old in North America, a 104 earned for his maiden win at Churchill Downs in late April. You Luckie Mann eclipsed that mark with a 107 Beyer for his victory in Calder's Birdonthewire Stakes nearly six months later.

However, Notonthesamepage went winless in three subsequent starts at 2, including off-the-board finishes in both the Grade 1 Hopeful and Breeders' Futurity.

"I always thought he was a tremendous sprinter, but he had epiglottis and bleeding issues at 2," said Wesley Ward who trains Notonthesamepage for owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey. "He's been training unbelievable since getting down here, and I was very confident going into the race."

Ward said he would speak with the Ramseys, who won three races on Saturday's opening-day card, about Notonthesamepage's future later this week.

"I'm not sure what we'll do next, but Mr. Ramsey is a Kentucky boy and if there is any chance this horse will stretch out, that's what he'll want to do," Ward said. "And it sure looks like he'll keep running the way he ran today."

Gulfstream Park officials were overwhelmed by the response to an aggressive advertising campaign for the opening of the meeting. The parking lot, which has had its capacity reduced the past two years due to the construction of a mall adjacent to the grandstand, was overflowing very early in the day, as was the grandstand apron and the new Jameson Jockey Club, a Tiki Bar that featured $1 draft beers and reduced food prices.

The big turnout, which track president Bill Murphy called the largest since the reconstruction of Gulfstream Park following the 2004 meet, strained the capacity of the mutuel department and concessionaires during the opening half of the card. Long lines, many 10 to 12 deep, were typical at both teller-manned and self-service mutuel machines and some concession areas.

"This is far and away the largest crowd we've had in this building since it was rebuilt and that includes Florida Derby and Sunshine Millions days," Murphy said. "Our new racing secretary Doug Bredar put out a great card with big fields, and I think if we can maintain large fields, we can expect business to be very good throughout the meet."

Total all-sources handle for opening day was $10,407,202, which included ontrack handle of $984,379. Those numbers compared favorably to the $9,672,906 all-sources handle and $872,518 ontrack handle for a 10-race program on the corresponding Saturday last year. The 2008 meet opened on a Thursday. No attendance figures were available, since admission to Gulfstream is free.

Adding to the excitement on opening day was another outstanding performance by the ever improving Delightful Kiss who exploded from dead last to a convincing three-length triumph over Bullsbay in the Grade 3 Hal's Hope. Delightful Kiss, who ended his 2008 campaign by finishing fourth in the inaugural Breeders' Cup Marathon and second behind Einstein in the Grade 2 Clark Handicap, was using the one-mile, $100,000 Hal's Hope as a prep for the $1 million Sunshine Millions Classic here later this month.

"I guess you can call that a pretty good prep," said Pete Anderson, who trains the homebred Delightful Kiss for the Hobeau Farm. "Even I was a little nervous when he was so far back and he was out in the parking lot entering the stretch, but that was okay. It was a very big field, and I told the jock to do that to keep him out of trouble."

Delightful Kiss, a son of Kissin Kris, ran a mile in 1:36.13 under Calvin Borel and returned a generous $12.40.