01/04/2005 12:00AM

Track to patrons: Be patient

Gary Rothstein/EquiPhotos
Race 1 on opening day gets under way. Trouble is, it wasn't completed because a tractor malfunction caused the race to be declared no contest.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - By any standard, it was not a clean opening day Monday at Gulfstream Park. Problems big and small plagued the first of 86 days here this winter, and track president Scott Savin and his staff now have a lengthy list of tasks and remedies in front of them.

Savin, who maintained a calm demeanor throughout the tumultuous afternoon, promised to follow through on the many things that need to be adjusted. Savin asked for patience as the following issues are addressed:

* A sufficient number of television monitors, seating, and mutuel tellers. All were in short supply throughout the temporary facility Monday, notably the tellers, as some lines grew 20 patrons long or longer as people patiently sought to make their bets.

"You come here knowing there are going to be problems with a temporary facility," said Matt Adams of Pompano Beach, Fla., one of the 6,438 in attendance Monday. "But there were some bugs that you would have thought would have been worked out better. What are they going to do on a Saturday when 15,000 people show up?"

* Satisfactory jockeys' quarters. A cumbersome shuttling system that moves jockeys to and from the old jockeys' room was highly frustrating to the riders, so Savin said late Monday that he hopes to have an auxiliary facility located adjacent to the paddock in place by next week.

* Rocks on the main track. Jerry Bailey returned from his first mount with a handful of rocks. "This isn't just an issue for a new track, but there are just too many rocks out there," he said. "We've all said we're willing to give management time to work the problems out, and they've said they'll get right on it."

* A barely audible public-address system. Not only is it hard to see the horses, but race calls are difficult to hear in many of the public areas.

* A timing system that almost surely has glitches. Fractions for the ninth race, a one-mile turf race for third-level allowance horses, were as follows: 22.91 seconds, 44.80, and 1:07.76, and the final time of 1:31.41 would be a world record for a mile on turf. The clocking for the other turf race, the sixth, was not as outrageous (fractions of 23.23, 48.17, 1:12.04, and 1:35.93, and a final time of 1:47.51 for 1 1/8 miles). The main-track times seemed within reason, too.

* An obtrusive and unreadable infield matrix board. Built and positioned with future meets in mind, the board is state-of-the-art impressive, but it fully obstructs the pan-camera angle for several seconds while horses race down the backstretch (as also happens at Santa Anita), and it is too distant for the vast majority of patrons to see well.

The board is situated across from the temporary facility in which racing officials are working. Said one official: "It looks great to us down here - but there are only about 12 of us."

They're off! Or are they?

Veteran handicapper Ron Nicoletti had a humorous tale from the day. He was on a Las Vegas radio show while the first race - which ultimately was declared no contest because of a malfunction related to the starting gate - was being run.

"They asked me to call the race," said Nicoletti, "so I'm saying, 'And the 6 is in front, and so-and-so is second, and . . . Wait a minute, they're stopping!

"And they say, 'What? They're stopping? What do you mean, they're stopping?'

"And I say, 'They're stopping! They stopped.' Craziest thing I've seen in a long time."

Stauffer: Been there, done that

Gulfstream's veteran announcer Vic Stauffer called every race on the California fair circuit for five years (1995-99), so offbeat occurrences do not easily rattle his cage.

"It's like being in the bush leagues for years, then making the bigs," said Stauffer of going from the fairs to Gulfstream. "If something doesn't go your way, you just deal with it. Before I got the Gulfstream job, I would've called the races from the infield, if that's what it took. So anything that happens at this meet won't be a big deal to me."

The hush of the crowd

Jockey Edgar Prado said being involved in a stretch battle and not hearing a roar from the crowd is nothing new to him. With the Gulfstream crowd restricted to the upper stretch, the final furlong or so of all races here this meet will be staged before a smattering of racing officials and construction workers.

"At Saratoga or Keeneland, yes, there is a big crowd, and at Belmont on the big days," said Prado. "But I've been to lots of places where no one is there. It was a little different [Monday], but it happens at other tracks all the time."

Canada's Husbands on live mounts

Patrick Husbands, who has developed into the premier jockey in Canada in recent years, has two live mounts in stakes action here Saturday, when three six-figure races start off the 2005 stakes schedule. Husbands will ride Wando in the $100,000 Mr. Prospector Handicap and Added Edge in the $100,000 Hal's Hope Handicap.

Wando, the 2003 Canadian Triple Crown champion, figures as second choice behind highweighted Shake You Down in the Grade 3 Mr. Prospector, a six-furlong race that also is expected to get Strength and Honor, Deputy Storm, and another starter or two.

Added Edge would be the starting highweight in the Grade 3 Hal's Hope if Dynever, who was recently sold to Buckram Oak Farm, does not start. Purge, Twilight Road, and Smooth Lover are among the other likely starters in the 1 1/8-mile race.

Although Husbands, a native of Barbados, has been enormously successful in Canada, he is bringing a strong Kentucky connection to Gulf this year. His agent is Terry "Jaws" Miller, and he will ride first call for Dale Romans, who trains Added Edge.

Also on Saturday is the $125,000 Aventura, the first leg of the Florida Derby series for 3-year-olds. A field of 10 or 11 is expected for the one-mile race, including Magna Graduate, Drum Major, Rey de Cafe, and Summer Man.

The Sunday features at Gulf are two $60,000 grass routes: The Ft. Lauderdale for older males and the Marshua's River for older females. Both are expected to draw big fields.

* Jockey Jorge Chavez is bidding to become the next jockey with 4,000 wins. After taking the fourth race Monday aboard Beware Avalanche, Chavez had 3,994 wins, six short of the mark.