10/21/2004 11:00PM

Tropical meet adds a third Grand Slam

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MIAMI - The Tropical at Calder meeting, which traditionally signifies the end of summer and the beginning of the fall-winter racing season in south Florida, opens Sunday with the first of 55 programs to be offered through Jan. 2.

Post time for the Tropical meet will be 25 minutes earlier than the Calder meet, with first post 12:25 p.m. Eastern. The lone exceptions will be Breeders' Cup Day and Florida Millions Day, Nov. 13, when first post will be noon, and Thanksgiving morning, when racing begins at 11 a.m.

The 2004 Tropical meet will present four "packaged" events for the first time, including the newly added Grand Slam III on New Year's Day. The other multiple stakes programs will be Florida Millions Day, Grand Slam I on Dec. 4, and Grand Slam II on Dec. 18.

The Florida Million, now in its third year, has added two stakes and will feature a total of eight stakes races worth $1.2 million in purses for registered Florida-breds. The program is held in conjunction with the Florida Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders' Association.

The $200,000 W.L. McKnight Handicap and its filly counterpart, the $200,000 La Prevoyante Handicap, both Grade 2 races, are the richest events on the Tropical stakes schedule. Both 1 1/2-mile turf races will be run on Dec. 18.

The new Grand Slam III card will feature both the Grade 3 Tropical Park Derby and Tropical Park Oaks for 3-year-olds on the turf.

Seven graded stakes races will be offered during the Tropical meeting.

Jockey Eddie Castro and trainer Bill White will return to defend their 2004 Tropical titles. The pair also won their respective divisions during the regular Calder meeting.