Updated on 09/16/2011 6:36AM

At Payson, picking spots at Gulfstream

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INDIANTOWN, Fla. - The closing of the Hialeah barn area has put stall space at a premium in south Florida this winter. Horsemen hoping to turn to the Payson Park Training Center as an alternative have quickly learned there is no room at the inn.

About the only way to secure stall space at Payson these days is to have it willed to you by your next of kin. All 503 stalls at the facility, approximately 95 miles north of Gulfstream Park, have gone to the same familiar faces, all of whom gladly fork over $2,300 per stall for a seven-month stay, Oct. 1 through May 1.

Paying for stalls allows trainers the freedom to choose when and where to run their horses without regard to the pressures imposed by racetracks, which provide limited but free stall space on their grounds. It is for this reason that Gulfstream Park's racing secretary, Dave Bailey, can only hope that the Payson clientele help to fill the void left by the loss of more than 1,000 stalls at Hialeah.

"I have no control over the guys at Payson," Bailey said as Gulfstream was preparing to open its 63rd meeting Thursday. "Although, year in and year out, they are pretty good entering their horses here. And I think I'll get a better response than usual this winter."

That may not be the case, however, as most of the Payson Park regulars said they plan to stick to their normal regime of running only those horses who fit the Gulfstream program, while laying up the majority of their stock for spring and summer campaigns up north.

"I really don't get cranked up too much during the winter," said trainer Elliott Walden, who has 44 horses stabled at Payson and none at Gulfstream. "I don't really point for the Gulfstream meet. I basically use the winter as a starting point for the spring and summer, and the fact I'm paying stall rent relieves me of any obligation to be at their beck and call. Naturally I'll try to help Dave [Bailey] where I can, and I'd guess I'll probably start 50 percent of the horses I've got here before the meet ends."

Walden said there is one simple solution for getting a better response from the Payson Park horsemen during the Gulfstream meet.

"The best way to get us to run more is raise the purses," said Walden. "The class of the horses running [at Gulfstream] is far superior to the purses they compete for."

Trainer Bill Mott has 75 horses at Payson and has traditionally been Gulfstream's top shipper from the training center.

"I don't think they have any complaints with our barn," said Mott. "I always do what I can to help. But only where it fits my plans."

Trainer Christophe Clement has 42 horses at Payson but said some of the better ones, including Grade 1 winners England's Legend, Forbidden Apple, and Voodoo Dancer, will get the winter off and likely not run at Gulfstream in 2002.

"It's too long a year to run from January until December, and considering the current purse situation in Florida I've got to concentrate on the New York season," said Clement. "The ones I've got stabled at Gulfstream will run, but only about a third to a half of the ones up here will probably make a start."

Trainer H. James Bond, a Payson regular for 14 years who has 50 horses on hand, echoed Clement's sentiments.

"I come down here in the winter to get the horses ready for New York and Kentucky, and I'm not going to change what I always do," said Bond. "I'll support the stakes program as always, but the overnight purses don't warrant the same kind of support."