09/02/2010 2:50PM

Florida Derby tops Gulfstream stakes schedule

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Gulfstream Park has always geared its meeting toward 3-year-olds, and that program will only get richer and better next winter in light of the 2011 stakes schedule, which the track released late Thursday afternoon. The 79-day meet begins Jan. 5.
The stakes schedule will be the richest in track history for 3-year-olds and once again will be highlighted by the $1 million Florida Derby, which will be run Sunday, April 3, one day shy of five weeks in advance of the Kentucky Derby. The Grade 1 Florida Derby, which has produced 21 Kentucky Derby winners, was worth $750,000 last year.
Two of Gulfstream’s major preps for the Florida Derby, the Holy Bull and Fountain of Youth, also received substantial purse increases, with both races being worth $400,000 in 2011. The Grade 3 Holy Bull, to be run Jan. 29, was valued at $150,000 last season, while the Fountain of Youth, carded for Feb. 26, had a purse of $250,000 in 2010.
All three races are part of the Preakness 5.5, which could award an additional $5.5 million in bonus money to the winner of the 2011 Preakness.
Gulfstream also has announced increased purses for seven other stakes in 2011, including those of its major 3-year-old filly races, the Forward Gal, Davona Dale, and Gulfstream Park Oaks (formerly named the Bonnie Miss). The Forward Gal purse has been increased from $150,000 to $200,000, the Davona Dale from $150,000 to $250,000, and the Gulfstream Park Oaks from $200,000 to $300,000. Plans are also pending to offer an additional bonus tied into those races.
The Florida Derby and Gulfstream Park Oaks will highlight the newly christened Florida Derby Festival Weekend, which will feature a pair of stakes on Saturday, April 2, and four more highlighted by the derby the following afternoon.
Overnight purses are expected to increase approximately 15 percent when the meet opens Jan. 5, the track announced.
“The increase in Gulfstream’s stakes purses and the substantial increase of our overnight purses is another sign of our commitment to having the best racing in the country,” said Steve Calabro, general manager of Gulfstream Park.
The status of the Sunshine Millions series, scheduled for Jan. 22, remains up in the air, Calabro said, pending approval by track owner MI Developments. “We really want to do it,” he said.

The 2011 Gulfstream meet will run five days a week, Wednesday through Sunday, through March. In April, Gulfstream will run four days a week, Thursday through Sunday. The meet ends April 24.