06/29/2013 2:03PM

Gulfstream Park summer meet dramatically alters Florida circuit


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – The landscape of the south Florida racing circuit will change dramatically beginning Monday, when Gulfstream Park ushers in a new era and opens its 2013 summer meeting amid the turmoil of a dates conflict with neighboring Calder Race Course.

Gulfstream Park will open a 47-day summer-fall session with special programs Monday and Thursday, July 4. The meet will continue on Saturdays and Sundays, in direct conflict with Calder, until Nov. 30, after which the traditional 2013-14 “championship meet” will begin at Gulfstream on Dec. 1. There also will be two Monday holiday cards Sept. 2 and Nov. 11.

The upcoming session will mark the first time in Gulfstream’s 74-year history that it has raced during the summer months. Even when racing dates were regulated in the state and Hialeah ran during the peak winter period, the Gulfstream meeting never extended beyond Kentucky Derby Day, according to track officials.

The summer session will be highlighted by a series of $100,000 overnight races beginning with the Armed Forces Stakes on Thursday.

With Calder scheduled to run Fridays through Sundays during the summer and fall, horseflesh will be at a premium at both tracks. On Friday, Calder officials instituted a restricted access policy, effective Monday, which forbids horses stabled in its barn area to re-enter the grounds if they leave to compete in a race at Gulfstream. The initial response to the new policy from a majority of the Calder horsemen was to immediately attempt to secure stall space with Gulfstream. On Saturday morning, Gulfstream announced it would re-open its Palm Meadows training facility to help accommodate any Calder horsemen who might be displaced as a result of the restricted access policy. There will be no charge for stall rentals during the summer meet.

Gulfstream also has raised purses $4,000 per race over those listed in the original condition book that runs through the end of July and will pay an additional $1,000 bonus to every starter on each of its four cards during opening week.

Tim Ritvo, the president of Gulfstream Park, said negotiations have been ongoing between the two tracks to work out an amenable solution to the potentially disastrous dates conflict. However, Ritvo said the two sides were closer to an agreement two weeks ago than at the present time.

“We’ve been holding off moving horsemen in, but we should start to see a large influx of horses coming in from Calder within the next 48 hours,” Ritvo said Saturday. “We will also continue to allow our horses open access, to race at Calder and return, because we think no horseman can survive on just a three-day week or a two-day week. But to have five racing programs to choose from, if allowed to ship and race at both places, makes all the sense in the world.”

Monday’s card will consist of eight races, three carded for the turf, which drew 69 horses, the majority of which are stabled at Calder. How many of those horses will be scratched as a result of Calder’s restricted access policy, which was not announced until entries had been open at Gulfstream for almost three hours, remains to be seen.

Opening day also will feature appearances by four of the leading riders from the 2012-13 winter meet: Javier Castellano, John Velazquez, Joel Rosario, and Edgar Prado, all of whom will accept mounts on the card and spend time greeting and signing autographs for fans during the day.

Gulfstream also will hold a 100-yard pari-mutuel Thoroughbred race to be run at 10 a.m. It will be presented under the auspices of its nonprofit Thoroughbred Aftercare Program license.