06/17/2004 11:00PM

Gulf renovations right on schedule


MIAMI - One of the hottest topics on the south Florida racing scene this summer concerns what may happen around these parts next winter, considering the major reconstruction project that is under way at Gulfstream Park.

Since the 2004 Gulfstream meet ended on April 25, half the track's 34 barns have been leveled, both the main and turf tracks have been torn apart and the grandstand is well on its way to being completely dismantled within the next month. In their place will come two grass courses, a 1 1/8-mile main track, 12 new barns, and a temporary grandstand - all of which must be ready for operation when the 2005 meet opens on Jan. 3.

The key question is whether all that work can be completed in time for the 2005 meet to begin on schedule.

"Not a problem," said Scott Savin, Gulfstream's president and general manager. "At the moment we are right on schedule. In fact, except for the turf courses, everything will be completed and we'll be ready to open our barn area as usual during the first week of November."

Savin said right now the key date is on or about July 15. That's when the seeding of the two turf courses will take place.

"Getting the turf course seeded by mid-July is our main objective," said Savin. "As long as that is accomplished on time we should be home free. We are using a new hybrid grass and are completely confident not only in its growth time but its hardiness and resiliency as well. The worst case scenario in all of this is that the opening of the turf course might be delayed a week or so into the meet."

Savin said the demolition of the grandstand should be complete by the middle of next month and that construction on the new barns and dormitories will begin in August.

"We'll lose approximately 200 to 250 stalls compared to last year as a result of this project but that still leaves us a total capacity of over 2,400 stalls combined with the 1,400 available at Palm Meadows."

Believe I Can Fly tops turf feature

The Calder turf course remains in full bloom and will be the site of Sunday's $30,000 feature, an optional claiming race for 3-year-olds and up. Believe I Can Fly, who finished second in the Carterista Handicap here on May 8, heads a field of 10.

His competition will include recent second-level allowance winners Broadway Snowman and Smooth Lover, along with Office Ghost, Trompolino, and Joey Blueeyes.

B.B. Best preps for stakes

Two of the fastest horses on the grounds worked over a track that was a bit on the slow side during training hours on Friday.

B.B. Best, trainer Eddie Plesa Jr.'s unbeaten and untested 2-year-old, breezed a half-mile in 49.20 seconds before the renovation break while Hear No Evil went five-eighths in 1:00.60 later in the morning.

B.B. Best is being pointed to the rich Florida Stallion Stakes series which begins on Aug. 14 but could make his next start in the $100,000 Criterium Stakes on July 3. Hear No Evil is coming off a second-place finish in the Grade 3 Memorial Day Handicap.