08/13/2004 11:00PM

Fla. Derby may be moved

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - The renovation of the racing surfaces at Gulfstream Park is proceeding on schedule, and the 2005 meet is expected to open on time, according to racing secretary Dave Bailey. Gulfstream is slated to open on Jan. 3.

In addition to changes to the racing surface, there are several pending alterations to the stakes schedule, notably in the 3-year-old division where the $1 million Florida Derby, historically held in mid-March, would be moved to early April, Bailey said.

Bailey, in Saratoga to distribute stall applications to horsemen, said that the 3-year-old program could start with the Holy Bull Stakes in early January. That race would be run at 7 1/2 furlongs or one mile. Bailey said Gulfstream is negotiating with the city of Aventura to get permission to build a one-mile chute.

Following the Holy Bull, the next three stakes for 3-year-olds - the Aventura, Fountain of Youth, and Florida Derby - would all be run at 1 1/8 miles. The $175,000 Aventura would be run on the first weekend of February, the $300,000 Fountain of Youth on the first weekend of March, and the $1 million Florida Derby on the first weekend of April.

"I think it'll give the Florida Derby more stature going into the Kentucky Derby and it'll keep our horsemen there a little longer," said Bailey, who also said that the complete stakes schedule would likely be released in September.

In June, the Gulfstream grandstand was demolished and the turf course and main track were razed. The turf course - which will be expanded to one-mile long and 160-feet wide - was seeded in early August. The main track, which is being expanded to 1 1/8 miles from one mile, is expected to be completed by Sept. 1.

Bailey said the Gulfstream backstretch would open Nov. 8. Palm Meadows, the training center in Boynton Beach, will open Nov. 1.

All the barns at Gulfstream Park were torn down and the process of rebuilding them will begin shortly.

"We may lose 250 stalls out of the 1,325 we had," Bailey said.

Bailey said that Gulfstream might run only four days a week in January, then jump to six days a week beginning in February. Gulfstream is scheduled for an 87-day meet through April 24.