Updated on 09/15/2011 1:19PM

Florida Derby moved a week later

Michael J. Marten
A change in Gulfstream Park's racing schedule for 2002 will shorten the gap between the Florida Derby and the Kentucky Derby to seven weeks.

MIAMI - The $1 million Florida Derby, the richest prep race leading to the Kentucky Derby, has been moved a week later and will be run next year on March 16, a Gulfstream Park official said Wednesday. The new date puts the Florida Derby seven weeks before the Kentucky Derby.

The Grade 1 Florida Derby is the traditional centerpiece of Gulfstream Park's annual meeting, which will run next year for six weeks longer than in the past, from Jan. 3 through April 24. Gulfstream decided to extend its meet after the Florida legislature did not renew legislation that regulated racing dates among Gulfstream and its two Miami-area rivals, Calder Race Course and Hialeah Park.

"Because of the deregulation of racing dates in Florida, which will allow us to run a longer meet next year, we can now move the Florida Derby back one week on our schedule, which gives us better spacing between all the major preps leading up to the Florida Derby," said Gulfstream Park general manager Scott Savin.

The two primary preps for the 1 1/8-mile Florida Derby are the Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes and Grade 1 Fountain of Youth Stakes, both of which are at 1 1/16 miles.

Savin said the Holy Bull, Fountain of Youth, and Florida Derby will now be run four weeks apart. In the past, there were three weeks between the Fountain of Youth and the Florida Derby, which, said Savin, "was a problem for many horsemen who voiced their concerns about having to push their 3-year-olds too hard so early in the season."

The 2002 Florida Derby will be run one day after its filly counterpart, the $250,000 Bonnie Miss Stakes, which had been run on closing day.

Savin said that the day before the Florida Derby is an appropriate slot for the Bonnie Miss.

"We are planning a series of special promotions on Fridays throughout our meeting for ladies," he said. "The Bonnie Miss is our number one attraction for 3-year-old fillies, making it ideal for the day preceding the Florida Derby, and will be part of a special Florida Derby festival weekend that will also include several non-racing promotions."

Monarchos won this year's Florida Derby and then won the Kentucky Derby. He became the 19th Kentucky Derby winner and 49th winner of a Triple Crown race to have competed in the Florida Derby.

The Bonnie Miss has produced five Eclipse Award champions in its 31-year history.