06/22/2013 2:05PM

Gulfstream Park: Summertime card begins new era

Barbara D. Livingston
Gulfstream will hold its first-ever summer program with a special eight-race card on Tuesday.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla.- What do Gulfstream Park and the National Hockey League have in common? Both have extended their 2012-2013 seasons into the summer.

The NHL finally decides the Stanley Cup this week while Gulfstream concludes its 2012-2013 championship meet, which began back on Dec. 1, with a special eight-race card on Tuesday. It will be first-ever summer program in the long and storied history of the track and a harbinger of things to come, with Gulfstream currently planning to begin its first summer-spring session on July 1.

Gulfstream’s 2012-13 meet originally ended on April 5. But track management applied for and was granted permission by the state to extend the session one extra day, allowing the track to become its own simulcast hub throughout the summer and fall rather than being required to use Calder as its hub, as in the past.

[GULFSTREAM PARK: Get PPs, watch Tuesday's full card live]

Gulfstream Park’s president, Tim Ritvo, said track management chose Tuesday the 25th “because it was a day no other pari-mutuel facility [in Florida] was running, and we won’t cause any loss of revenue for the state by racing live that afternoon. In fact, by us running Tuesday, state revenues will actually go up for the day.”

There are currently just under 300 horses stabled on the grounds at Gulfstream Park. As a result, Ritvo offered an incentive to horsemen and owners to help fill Tuesday’s program, increasing the original purses in the condition book $4,000 apiece while also offering to pay out $1,000 to every starter regardless of where they finish in each of the eight races on the card. As a result, Tuesday’s program lured 84 entries, the majority of whom will ship over from their regular base at Calder for the day.

“Calder management did the right thing not to hold its horsemen hostage and by allowing horses stabled over there to ship and return to compete on Tuesday’s program,” said Ritvo. “We believe with open access, the horsemen win. And if both tracks do run against one another this summer, that policy should continue, because it would give trainers the opportunity to have five race days to pick and choose from, which would be better for both them and the two tracks.”

Although negotiations are ongoing between Gulfstream and Calder, the two tracks are currently scheduled to race head to head on weekends throughout the summer and into the fall beginning on July 6.

Because Tuesday’s card is an extension of the 2012-2013 session, any owner who ran a horse during the championship meet this past winter remains eligible to claim. To protect the local horse population, Ritvo put in a house rule that forbids any horse claimed on Tuesday’s program to race at any track outside of south Florida for the next 90 days.

Ritvo was pleased with the way entries filled for the first summer card in track history.

“Because Tuesday is an extension of our winter championship meet, we had extra money to give away, so we anticipated decent fields, especially with open access,” said Ritvo. “We’re hoping to do a good business with our simulcast signal since it is a Tuesday and there are limited signals available around the country. We’re also looking forward to being able to give our simulcast customers a hint of what’s to come, since we will be conducting live racing here throughout the summer and right up until our 2013-14 meet opens on December 1.”

Tuesday’s card is highlighted by the seventh race, a 6 1/2-furlong optional claiming dash that carries a $35,000 purse. Musical Flair, beaten a nose under similar conditions going five furlongs in his last start, and Ecabroni are among the leading contenders.