04/12/2005 11:00PM

A review of facilities prompts Cup thoughts

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - The Breeders' Cup vice president of event management, Damon Thayer, was at Gulfstream Park on April 2, Florida Derby Day, prompting speculation whether the Breeders' Cup will be returning to south Florida.

That's not out of the question, Thayer said, although that wasn't the reason for his visit.

"The purpose of this particular visit was to review the temporary facilities being used at Gulfstream this winter to see what lessons we can learn for future Breeders' Cups where temporary facilities are necessary," Thayer said. "We're still adjusting to the way we handle temporary facilities, and I think we were able to take away some positive things from the visit, especially the wagering tent, which we felt was particularly impressive."

Gulfstream has hosted three Breeders' Cups, in 1989, 1992, and 1999. The 1999 edition was the first time total Breeders' Cup handle exceeded $100 million, and it also had an economic impact of $100 million on the local economy, according to Thayer.

But with Gulfstream undergoing extensive renovations and downsizing its grandstand, the question remains whether the track would prove a suitable site to host racing's premier event.

Thayer said it is impossible to know until at least next winter, when the new grandstand is completed. He said he spoke only informally with several members of track management about the prospects of bringing the Breeders' Cup back to Gulfstream, but that no official discussions on the subject were held.

"They've already run three good events at Gulfstream, and the south Florida marketplace is one of the best in the country and has embraced the Breeders' Cup every time it's been down there," said Thayer. "Per capita wagering in all three previous Cups held at Gulfstream was extraordinary, merchandise sales were through the roof, the south Florida Breeders' Cup host committee set standards by which all other local community efforts are judged, and the new improvements, especially to the turf course, should make the track more enticing as a host site, especially to the Europeans."

The Breeders' Cup is already committed to host sites through 2007.

Gulfstream Park's president and general manager, Scott Savin, said there would certainly be an interest in bringing the Breeders' Cup back to Gulfstream Park and that there would be no problem accommodating the event, but that it was too early for officials of Magna Entertainment Corp., which owns the track, to hold any formal discussions on the matter.

"The new grandstand will have a capacity of approximately 10,000, and there will be ample room on the grounds to construct the necessary temporary facilities to accommodate the crowds, but we still have several phases of construction left on the property and too many unanswered questions to address the subject at this time," Savin said.

Closing days laden with turf races

Turf racing continues to dominate the cards as the 2005 meeting winds down to a close, with four of the nine races on Friday's program scheduled for the grass, including a maiden special weight race for 3-year-olds that was split into three separate divisions.

Friday's feature will be a $32,000 starter allowance for fillies and mares going six furlongs that drew a field of seven. Cutoffs, who posted consecutive victories under $50,000 and $32,000 claiming prices earlier in the session, may be the slight favorite. Flaxen Flyer, riding a two-race winning streak of her own, and the speedy Happy Face head the competition.

* Apprentice Josue Arce registered the first victory of his career when he guided Wholelotofimage to victory in Wednesday's first race. Arce, a 19-year-old native of Puerto Rico, rode Wholelotofimage for owner-breeder Albino Rossi.