08/22/2007 11:00PM

Holy Bull to be run 3 weeks before Derby


The $1 million Florida Derby will once again be positioned five weeks prior to the Kentucky Derby next year, but Gulfstream Park has changed both the distance and date of the Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes. Those races are among the highlights a 2008 Gulfstream Park stakes schedule, which has been put together by the track's new director of racing, Bernie Hettel, and racing secretary, Bill Couch. The meet opens on Jan. 3 and continues through April 20.

The Grade 1 Florida Derby will be decided at 1 1/8 miles on March 29. The Holy Bull Stakes has been lengthened from one mile to 1 3/16 miles, which makes it the longest graded Kentucky Derby prep in the U.S. The Holy Bull, which last year was run Feb. 3, will now be decided on April 12.

"By making a few adjustments to the Holy Bull we give trainers an opportunity to compete for graded stakes money just a few weeks before the Derby," said Hettel, a longtime steward in Kentucky who served as an association steward at Gulfstream in 2007.

The Florida Derby is one of three Grade 1 races to be run at Gulfstream in 2008, along with the $500,000 Donn Handicap on Feb. 2 and the $350,000 Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup Handicap on the turf on Feb. 23. The Sunshine Millions will also return, on Jan. 26, featuring the $500,000 Distaff and $500,000 Turf.

Carding four or more stakes races on a single afternoon has been common at Gulfstream for many years, but next year only the Sunshine Millions card will offer more than three stakes.

"Gulfstream's stakes program is rich in tradition and opportunities, and we felt running six or seven stakes on a single day diluted the product," said Gulfstream president Bill Murphy.