04/07/2006 12:00AM

Business has been good, president says


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Track owner Magna Entertain-ment Corp. will not give out any official numbers in regards to attendance and handle for the 2006 Gulfstream Park season until after the meet ends on April 23. But track president Scott Savin said that from what he has seen of the figures to this point, the meet has been a success on both fronts.

"Believe me, we are all very pleased with the way things have transpired so far," Savin said. "Ontrack business is up substantially over last year, and through Sunday our attendance is up 365,000 compared to the same period [72 days] in 2005."

Savin estimated that Gulfstream lost 20,000 to 30,000 people during the opening 20 days of the meet, when Calder was open for simulcasting.

Estimating attendance can be a tricky business when admission to the track is free, as it is at Gulfstream. But Savin said he's confident his figures are accurate.

"We've done four aerial flyovers to count cars in the parking lot, and historically we know pretty much what the average is per car," Savin explained. "In addition, we can pinpoint our attendance on the third floor every day almost to the person and on the second floor by how many meals are served in the dining room. We've also done multiple counts on the first floor and feel pretty good about the accuracy of the numbers."

Savin said per capita handle was the major focus this year, with the lower capacity of the new building, and in that respect the meet has been a rousing success.

"One thing I can say publicly is that our per capita is up double digits percentage-wise over last year to this point of the meet," Savin said.

Once the live meet ends, Gulfstream Park is allowed to offer simulcast wagering only after 6 p.m.

"We'll open the building, including the Tickets Sports Theatre, from 5 p.m. until approximately midnight Wednesdays through Saturday once the meet ends," Savin said Friday. "And we've just received permission from the state to open our poker room."

Legislation passed earlier this year will also allow Gulfstream to install 1,500 slot machines, which by law can be in operation by the summer, although Savin said no decision has been reached regarding when the track might actually open the slot rooms. Track management and officials from the Florida Horseman's Benevolent and Protective Association have had several contentious meetings this winter trying to hammer out a contract agreement for the slots.

"Slots are up in the air at the moment," said Savin. "The horsemen's contract is one factor, and we are also still awaiting final regulations from the state."

Fate of Buckram Oak horses still iffy

Mohammed Moubarak, racing manager for Buckram Oak Farms, said details are still being worked out regarding the future of the stable, which includes such stars as reigning Breeders' Cup Sprint winner Silver Train, Grade 1 winner Silver Wagon, and the promising 3-year-olds City Attraction and Luxembourg.

The future of Buckram Oak was left in doubt after principal owner Mahmoud Fustok was killed in an accident in February.

"Right now we're trying to accommodate our trainers as best we can while we continue to work out all the details, and I appreciate their patience during this process," said Moubarak. "I'm hoping we can reach a final solution within the next couple of weeks, by the end of the month at the latest."

Moubarak said he expects at least some if not all of the Buckram Oak horses will eventually be put up for sale.

"I'm certain some will become available, although just who those might be I'm not sure yet," said Moubarak. "Right now we're continuing to race our horses until a final decision is reached."

Record turf sprinter returns

Defending champion Procreate is among the 11 horses nominated for next Saturday's $50,000 Yankee Affair Stakes on the turf. The five-furlong Yankee Affair is the final event on the 2006 Gulfstream Park stakes schedule.

Procreate won the 2005 Yankee Affair by 5 1/4 lengths while setting a course record of 53.80 seconds in the process. An 8-year-old is trained by John Zimmerman, Procreate has not started since finishing second in Pimlico's Mister Diz Stakes in August.