04/03/2009 12:00AM

Defying trends, business is up at Gulfstream


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - At a time when businesses of every kind are feeling the crunch of the prevailing economic climate, including most racetracks throughout the country, Gulfstream Park has proven the exception to the rule this winter.

According to Gulfstream Park president Bill Murphy, business is up not only on the racing side of the ledger, but in the casino as well since the 2009 meet began on Jan. 3.

"We are up 3.78 percent in all-sources handle and 6.8 percent on live handle through Sunday compared to 2008," said Murphy. "And our attendance, which is figured by using a formula that computes number of transactions or tickets sold, is up 9 percent over last year."

Admission to Gulfstream Park is free.

Murphy said the increase in business has slashed more than $1 million off the overpayment in purses that existed when the 2009 meet began.

"At this rate we'll be positioned to offer a purse increase in 2010," said Murphy.

Murphy said Gulfstream's formula for success is a bit different than many other racinos around the country.

"What's unique about Gulfstream is that unlike other racinos, where racing is propped up by the slots, good racing has actually helped the casino business here," he said. "On Florida Derby Day, for instance, we had the single biggest day since the three local parimutuel tracks were granted casino licenses in 2006."

Murphy, quoting figures released by the state, said Gulfstream's casino handle was up 9.4 percent over the past six months, while nearby competitors Mardi Gras and Pompano Park were down 14.9 and 25.3 percent, respectively, during that same time frame.

"We're probably one of the few racetracks and casinos on the East Coast with the arrow pointing up right now," said Murphy. "We owe a lot of our success on the racing side of the ledger to the new five-day race week and the quality of our racing product, not to mention the dollar beers we've been offering all meet long. And I give a lot of the credit to the attitude of our entire team throughout the plant. They've all been really upbeat this winter, and it clearly shows in the numbers."

Mambo Meister, You Luckie Mann look for spots

A pair of year-round south Florida-based runners, Mambo Meister and You Luckie Mann, are on the shelf but hoping to return to action in the near future.

Mambo Meister has not started since being beaten a neck by the graded stakes winner Jet Propulsion under allowance conditions here on Jan. 21.

"He kicked the screen in his stall about seven weeks ago and had some filling in a hind leg," said trainer Phil Gleaves. "As a result we had to miss a couple of big races we'd been pointing for, including the Appleton. I couldn't breeze him for six weeks but he's back working now."

Mambo Meister worked an easy half-mile in 50.80 seconds here Friday.

"Right now I'm hoping to have him ready for the Miami Mile at Calder later this month," said Gleaves. The Grade 3 Miami Mile is carded on April 25.

Trainer Marty Wolfson reported that You Luckie Mann, whose Beyer Speed Figure of 107 was the highest of any 2-year-old in 2008, was also on the mend but not likely to return until late this spring. You Luckie Mann ran into a couple of monsters earlier in the meet when second behind Notonthesamepage in the Spectacular Bid and This Ones for Phil in the Sunshine Millions Dash on Jan. 24.

Wolfson said he'll point You Luckie Mann for Calder's Grade 2 Carry Back on July 11.

* Jose Lezcano surged to the top of the jockey standings after riding four winners on Friday, giving him 51 for the meet. Lezcano had been in a four-way battle for the lead with Kent Desormeaux, John Velazquez, and Julien Leparoux for much of the past month. But with those three rivals having already packed their tack and departed for Keeneland, Lezcano is now the heavy favorite to win his first Gulfstream riding title.

* Jockey Carlos Marquez Jr. will be sidelined indefinitely with a fractured finger on his left hand after he was tossed by his mount Classy Concorde while in the starting gate for Thursday's seventh race. Marquez has won 20 races during the session.