07/01/2013 5:14PM

Gulfstream Park opener attracts almost $2.5 million in betting


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Gulfstream Park began its inaugural summer meeting Monday amidst an air of uncertainty, but racing there was welcomed back with enthusiasm by local fans and simulcast players around the country.

The 47-day meet is the first time in Gulfstream’s 74-year history that it has raced during the summer. Gulfstream Park and Calder Race Course across town will race in direct conflict on weekends, competing for both horses and betting dollars.

Monday’s program lured a larger-than-normal crowd for a weekday card, while featuring a sparkling performance from jockey Joel Rosario, who won three of the first five events on the day.

According to the track, all-sources handle for the eight-race card totaled $2,493,688, of which $156,660 was wagered ontrack.

“We’re pleased with the way the public and the horsemen responded to the first day of our summer meet,” Gulfstream president Tim Ritvo said. “We’re also thankful to the New York jockeys who came out to ride, greet our fans, and take part in our opening day.”

Rosario was one of four New York-based riders who flew down for opening day to ride and accept a donation to the Disabled Jockeys’ Fund from track management. Rosario was joined at Gulfstream on Monday by two-time defending Gulfstream riding champ Javier Castellano along with Hall of Famers John Velazquez and Edgar Prado.

Rosario won the first two races on the program, with the 7-1 Tyler’s Wildcat and 1-5 Kitten’s Gift. Tyler’s Wildcat was saddled to victory by Jose Garoffalo, one of more than a dozen trainers who transferred their stables from Calder to Gulfstream over the weekend after Calder officials instituted a policy that forbids horses stabled in its barn area to re-enter the grounds if they leave to compete in a race at Gulfstream.

Garoffalo, who has 20 horses bedded down locally, said: “I decided to move my stable to Gulfstream because I believe we have better conditions here, better purses, and more respect for our jobs by management by allowing us to run at both tracks this summer. So for me, the decision to be here was a no-brainer.”

Rosario completed his hat trick aboard the heavily favored Heiko in the co-featured fifth event, one of three turf races on the card. Heiko is trained by Marty Wolfson, who said he plans to move his entire stable of 25 horses to Gulfstream from Calder on Sunday.

Wolfson said Heiko was not allowed to return to Calder after winning Monday, although he was given permission by management to bring the horse he ran in the seventh race, Jewel in the Sky, back after the race. Heiko was entered for Friday at Calder, but Wolfson said he intends to scratch.

“They said because Heiko is in the body of the race at Calder on Friday he can’t return,” Wolfson said. “There’s 14 horses in the field, and they know ahead of time I’m scratching, so it’s not like it will cost them a starter. Somebody will get in.”

Wolfson said he likes training his horses at Calder. But he feels he has no choice but to move to Gulfstream from his longtime home at Calder, which runs its stakes-filled Summit of Speed card Saturday.

“I’m kind of forced to make the move,” Wolfson said. “It just makes me mad that an hour after they told me I couldn’t bring Heiko back I entered 11 horses for Summit of Speed Day. I wish I didn’t have to run those horses on Saturday.”

According to John Marshall, Calder’s vice president of racing, the track has already had 163 horses relocate to Gulfstream. He also acknowledges that many other trainers are seriously considering making the move.

“Our horse population last week stood at 1,571, today we are at 1,450, and we can stand another little hit and still run three days a week throughout the summer,” Marshall said Monday. “One message getting lost in our new policy is that it’s a restricted-access policy, not closed access. Exceptions can be made on a case-by-case basis after being reviewed by our racing secretary Mike Anifantis, although to my knowledge the majority of the horses from Calder who competed there today stayed there.”

Marshall said some exceptions in the restricted-access policy are being made to allow an owner to become eligible to claim horses at Gulfstream.

“One twist we are acknowledging is in regard to the claiming rule at Gulfstream, where owners need to run at least one horse to become eligible to claim,” Marshall said. “We’re giving some respect to that rule. If we have a horse that cannot be used here in the foreseeable future, we’ll allow a trainer to take that horse to run at Gulfstream out of respect for the owner.”

Chuck Berger More than 1 year ago
This is a case of two factions trying to cut each other's throats. The situation cries for a organized regulatory commission to decide what is in the best interests of horseracing itself. As the fields get smaller, I no longer consider betting either venue. In this day of internet wagering, I can find a" better bang for my buck."
[removed] More than 1 year ago
This comment has been deleted
Bob More than 1 year ago
You're so right Russell. In reality people don't care who is racing as long as there is a payoff. This is officially Finger Lakes South. The everyday regulars bet on anything as long as they have action . Can't win
Ian GW More than 1 year ago
Wow. I doubt when people see these small fields they gonna get that handle. I just saw the Saturday entries and I had to do a double take. I love Gulf but where is the big fields? If they going to run chalk 7 fields, I'd rather them not run at all. Very disappointed.
ken n More than 1 year ago
Gulfstream ,Calder no one wins.Little business and hot weather and locals .
ray More than 1 year ago
This debacle is just another example of an industry trying hard to kill itself. The bettor is the loser . Stronach and Churchill deserve each other. Two rich entities behaving like little children.
mikey More than 1 year ago
The truth was never said any better.They are the very reason racing is dying.
Shane Strahan More than 1 year ago
gulfstream will end up winning this battle
Bob More than 1 year ago
156,660 was the on track wagering? Attendance must have been terrible . 8 race card or not that's a bunch of very small bettors its not attracting any big players. i know its early and a monday. lol That's a bad per capita number. If they got 1000 people that's only $156 pp on 8 races. Very low. You should get over 2 million counting all the countries. Simulcast spots plus Vegas. That's par for the course. NYRA does this with their eyes closed. See belmonts handle on Wednesday.
Mark Scheider More than 1 year ago
It only makes sense. What other race tracks were running horses Monday with world class riders? Horse racing can be so much bigger than it is if it was more organized. I feel its shortcomings are due to lack of organization.
zerosumzen More than 1 year ago
Agreed. Everybody is in it for themselves. If horse racing had an over-arching regulatory body, like MLB, the NFL, NBA, or NHL, it could be right up there with the big sports. The interest is there, but the marketing is not. People can't be interested in what they don't know, in this case most of the horse racing season. But they are interested in the Kentucky Derby or Triple Crown. Not because that's extra special, but because that is marketed and publicized. I have no doubt that, with the right publicity, people would be just as interested in top horses as they are in top athletes.
Anil More than 1 year ago
CDI has ruined Calder. I remember the days of a packed Hialeah. A packed Calder too. When management at Calder changed to CDI the track was ruined. They are getting a taste of their own medicine. Attacking Turway and Hawthorne now you'll pay by closing Calder. Gulfstream Park will shut Calder down.... No doubt. Compare the handles of Gulfstream and Calder.... It's a no brainer. A request to CDI: can you do the honorable thing and increase the purse of the Kentucky Derby.... $2 million purse with each entrant having to pay $50,000 to enter plus 1000's of nominations. Come on people $133 million was bet on the 2013 Kentucky Derby. Without the Kentucky Derby CDI is dead. Another track should offer a $5 mil or $10 mil Derby on 1st Saturday in May and let's see what CDI does...
Bob More than 1 year ago
Handles are higher at Gulfstream only because of the season when they run . It's florid a winter and snowbirds and vacationers are most of the handle. Summer at GP using Calder horses produce same handle. Yesterday's live handle only $156,000 . Per person that's real small. Isn't it the same crowd as calders. Tracks only 7 miles apart. Where do you think the attendance will come from.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was just down in South Florida last week & the afternoons are hot as hell( heat index over 100). The attendance in the summer will be small. I couldn't stay outside in that heat & humidity for more than a half hour. Its all about the off site wagering..
mikey More than 1 year ago
Race tracks only want slots and handel.The day of a few hundred at the track is not far away.
Blaine MacMillan More than 1 year ago
And people wanna know why industries need regulators.....TO PROTECT THEM FROM THEMSELVES Y'ALL!!!!!!!!