02/16/2012 1:49PM

Gulfstream talking $1M to lure female champions to Rampart

Barbara D. Livingston
Royal Delta is being pointed for the $10 million Dubai World Cup.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Florida Derby day is the biggest day on the Gulfstream Park calendar each winter. And if the track’s president and general manager, Tim Ritvo, has his way, it will get even bigger this year.

Ritvo is hoping to lure the three top fillies and mares in the country – Horse of the Year Havre de Grace and Eclipse Award winners Royal Delta and Awesome Feather – to Gulfstream for the Grade 3 Rampart, which is one of six other stakes to be run on the March 31 Florida Derby program.

“We’d like to get all three fillies here for the Rampart and make it an historical race,” said Ritvo. “We’re planning to offer a significant purse increase for the Rampart, a minimum of $500,000 if we can get at least two of these champions to come and more, maybe as much as $1 million, if all three came.”

The purse for the 1 1/8-mile Rampart is $150,000.

Havre de Grace, who has not started since the Breeders’ Cup Classic, is currently pointing for a March 17 return, according to her owner, Rick Porter. Royal Delta is expected to launch her 2012 campaign in the Grade 3 Sabin here on Feb. 25 as a prep for the $10 million Dubai World Cup, which, like the Rampart, will be run on March 31. Awesome Feather, who remained undefeated with her easy victory in the Florida Sunshine Millions Distaff, already has the Rampart as a possible option for her next start, according to trainer Chad Brown.

“I know Royal Delta is being pointed for a $10 million race, and I realize it’s hard to ignore that fact,” said Ritvo. “But I’m hoping to appeal to her owner, Mr. Leon, who is from Florida, to look at the historical element and the challenge of running in a race like this.”

Royal Delta is owned by Benjamin Leon’s Besilu Stable.

Rick Porter, who owns Havre de Grace, said the challenge of running against Royal Delta and Awesome Feather is appealing, but that the timing of the race just does not fit the champion’s schedule.

“My initial reaction to that type of proposal would be no,” said Porter. who added that he had spoken to trainer Larry Jones “and we want to bring her back on March 17, either in the Azeri or the New Orleans Ladies. That would put her in position to come back in the Apple Blossom if the weights are right. By waiting for the Rampart on the 31st, it would throw us off our schedule and eliminate us from running in the only Grade 1 race for her during the spring.”

Porter said he expects Havre de Grace will have the opportunity to meet Royal Delta and Awesome Feather at some point later this season.

“I love to get these types of rivalries going, and if the Rampart were on the 17th, I’d certainly consider it,” said Porter. “But I have to look first at what’s best for Havre de Grace and running her down there at the time would not be in her best interests.”