10/15/2002 12:00AM

Record stakes slate, Sunshine Millions highlight meeting


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Bolstered by the inaugural edition of the Sunshine Millions and anchored by the $1 million Florida Derby, Gulfstream Park will offer a record $8.6 million in stakes purses during the 2003 meeting, which runs from Jan. 3 through April 25. The stakes program is the richest in Florida history.

The Sunshine Millions program will pit Florida-breds against California-breds at Magna Entertainment Corp.'s two flagship tracks, Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita, on Jan. 25. A total of $1.85 million in purses will be awarded at Gulfstream that day.

The Grade 1 Florida Derby is the richest race in the nation for 3-year-olds on the Triple Crown trail. This year's running of the nine-furlong race will be run on March 15.

The Florida Derby is one of five Grade 1 races on the 2003 calendar, along with the $200,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes on Feb. 15, the $500,000 Donn Handicap on Feb. 22, the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Handicap on March 29, and the $200,000 Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup Handicap on the turf Feb. 16. Overall, 31 graded stakes will be offered during the Gulfstream meeting.

The new Palm Meadows training facility in Boynton Beach will provide stabling for 800 more horses than last year, said Gulfstream president and general manager Scott Savin.

Savin said the extra horses expected to fill the stalls "ensures strong fields for our stakes and the supporting races as well."