04/18/2008 12:00AM

Large fields for all-turf closing-day card


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Anybody who likes betting races with big fields on the turf will love being at Gulfstream Park on Sunday for closing day of the 2008 meeting. All 11 races on Sunday's card will be contested on the grass. Ten of those 11 events have full fields of 12, the other goes with 11 starters.

Leading the parade of turf events will be the featured 10th race, an optional claiming race to be decided under first-level allowance conditions at 1 1/16 miles. The field includes millionaire Tour of the Cat, who returns to the grass for the first time since his seventh-place finish in Calder's Grade 3 Miami Beach Handicap on Sept. 11, 2004. Now 10, Tour of the Cat's only win in 14 starts on grass came nearly seven years ago in the 2001 The Vid Stakes.

Tour of the Cat figures to be among the longer prices in the field. The best horse in the lineup, For Michael's Dad, is stuck on the also-eligible list and will need some help to run. A son of Montbrook, For Michael's Dad was one of several horses trainer Dale Romans left behind until the end of the meet and one who has shown marked improvement since switching to the grass to win his maiden going 1 1/8 miles on Feb. 24. He then returned under straight entry-level allowance conditions to finish second, beaten a head by Hyracotherium, five weeks later.

Another of the leading contenders in the race, Tupi, also is on the also-eligible list. He too fell victim to Hyracotherium on March 30, finishing fifth following a very troubled trip.

Among the horses drawn in the body of the race, Little Genius could prove best returning to the turf off an easy 4 1/2-length high-priced conditioned claiming victory going a mile over the main track. The field also includes last-out grass winners Mascot, Cenzontle, Boris Bay, and Champagne Brunch.

Pletcher, Coa win titles

Todd Pletcher will win his fifth straight Gulfstream training title, matching the second-longest streak in track history, a mark posted by Arnold Winick from 1959 through 1963. Bill Mott holds the local record, having captured six consecutive training titles from 1993 through 1998.

Eibar Coa, who made a last-minute decision to leave New York and ride here this winter, will win his second local jockey title and first since 2003. Coa won 76 races, four more than runner-up John Velazquez. Jose Lezcano will finish third. All three have left Gulfstream to ride elsewhere.

Nicoletti joins Gulfstream staff

Longtime south Florida racing personality and Gulfstream Park handicapper Ron Nicoletti will join the Gulfstream Park staff on a full-time basis as the track's media manager.

Nicoletti, who served as track handicapper for two decades at Calder and also as local handicapper for the Miami Herald, said he is looking forward to his new duties, which will include creating and managing handicapping contests as well as acting as an "emissary" in the local community for Gulfstream and the sport of Thoroughbred racing.

Jockey Hernandez fractures arm

Jockey Constantino Hernandez was taken to the hospital after suffering multiple fractures to his left arm when he was thrown in the tunnel by Tenacious Gator prior to the running of Friday's seventh race. Tenacious Gator finished second behind even-money favorite Reata's Quik Punch, with Jeffrey Sanchez substituting for Hernandez.