04/24/2003 11:00PM

Gulfstream has record meet

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Gulfstream Park rebounded from a disappointing 2002 meeting with a record-setting 2003 meeting that ended with substantial increases in both total and average daily handle.

Gulfstream handled $825.3 million during its 89-day meet, an increase of 4.5 percent over the 90-day meet last year. Average daily handle was 9.3 million, up 5.2 percent from last year. Daily ontrack attendance of 8,538, however, was down 8.5 percent from 2002.

Eibar Coa captured his first Gulfstream jockeys' title with 91 victories, while Mark Shuman smashed the all-time trainer's record for wins with 87. All came for owner Mike Gill, who won a record 88 races.

Empire Maker won the meet's cornerstone event, the Grade 1, $1 million Florida Derby, and will be the heavy favorite to win Saturday's Kentucky Derby.

Another significant event was the inaugural Sunshine Millions. A series of eight races split between Gulfstream and its Magna Entertainment Inc. sister track of Santa Anita, the Sunshine Millions was restricted to Florida- and California-breds and offered $3.6 million in purses. Florida-breds won seven of the eight events, including Best of the Rest's victory in the $1 million Sunshine Classic.