12/14/2006 12:00AM

Gulfstream revamps paddock, grandstand

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Slot machines won't be the only new additions awaiting fans and horsemen when racing returns to Gulfstream Park for the 2007 season beginning on Jan. 3.

In response to concerns raised by patrons and trainers during the 2006 race meet, the first conducted with the newly constructed Gulfstream Park grandstand, track management has renovated several areas of the facility, including the paddock, winner's circle, and the north park area of the grandstand.

"Under Frank's direction we have made several improvements for the upcoming meet," said Gulfstream's vice president of racing, Bill Murphy, referring to Magna Entertainment chairman Frank Stronach.

Murphy said the biggest concerns heard last year from fans and horsemen were related to the indoor saddling enclosure. As a result, a new saddling area has been constructed adjacent to the walking ring, with the indoor area to be reserved for use only during inclement weather.

"The public was unhappy because they were unable to view the saddling process," said Murphy. "So Frank directed we make a change, and thus far the new saddling area has been very well-received by the horsemen. This will also help us make a much better simulcast presentation, which we are very excited about for the upcoming meet."

Stadium seating that will accommodate more than 1,000 people is being constructed in the north park area of the grandstand, and according to Murphy it will be up and ready by opening day. The winner's circle has been expanded, and there will be an additional 70 mutuel machines in operation, mainly on the first floor, during the 2007 meet.

"We've got some special plans to help try and bring our fans into the spotlight a little more this season," said Murphy. "For instance, we will schedule daily handicapping seminars in the north park that will include guest trainers and handicappers. There are also plans to have lucky seat and voucher giveaways during the meet. All of this is being done with Frank's encouragement, and underlines his incredible commitment to the success of the entire racing product at Gulfstream."