09/25/2008 11:00PM

Gulfstream: Florida Derby purse takes cut


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Gulfstream Park will have a new racing secretary in 2009, Doug Bredar, and along with it a new look to its stakes schedule when the meet begins on Jan. 3.

Among the most significant changes to the schedule, which offers 48 stakes, is a purse cut for the Grade 1 Florida Derby from $1 million to $750,000, along with a change in distance for two of the track's most prominent races, the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth and Gulfstream Park Handicap.

As usual the Florida Derby, which was the final prep for two of the last three Kentucky Derby winners, including Big Brown this year, highlights a stakes schedule that's worth just under $9 million. The Florida Derby again is positioned five weeks before the Kentucky Derby, and will be run at 1 1/8 miles on March 28.

"We felt the $250,000 we're reducing the purse of the Florida Derby would be better served going into overnight purses," Bredar said. "After looking at what else is out there for 3-year-olds in the division we doubt the reduction will affect us much."

Bredar also shortened the traditional prep for the Florida Derby, the Fountain of Youth, from 1 1/8 miles to a mile and the Gulfstream Park Handicap from 1 3/16 miles to a mile.

"Obviously, I'd prefer to run the Fountain of Youth at a mile and a sixteenth, but that's not possible because of the configuration of the racetrack," said Bredar. "And I don't believe having back to back mile-and-one-eighth races, the Fountain of Youth and then the Florida Derby, for 3-year-olds at that time of the year does us much good. By shortening the Fountain of Youth to a mile, I felt it could help us maximize the size and quality of the field while also giving those horsemen who might be a little behind developing their Derby prospects a better opportunity to run in the race."

Bredar also went to great lengths to better balance his schedule as compared with previous years.

"In the past, there really hasn't been a natural progression of both distances and purses in many of the categories, and I think we've done a good job accomplishing that with our program for 2009," he said.