09/25/2003 12:00AM

Two Grade 1 races get $50,000 purse boost

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - The $1 million Florida Derby and the second annual Sunshine Millions will highlight the 2004 Gulfstream Park stakes schedule, which has more than $8.5 million in purses and 41 stakes, 32 of which are graded. The Gulfstream meeting opens on Jan. 3.

The Florida Derby, the richest of all the Kentucky Derby preps, is one of four Grade 1 races on the schedule. The others are the $500,000 Donn Handicap, the $250,000 Fountain of Youth, and $250,000 Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup Handicap. The purses for both the Fountain of Youth and Gulfstream BC have been raised $50,000 from last year.

The Florida Derby will be run on Saturday, March 13, and highlights a program that will include four additional stakes, including three Grade 3's, the Swale, Skip Away Handicap, and Forward Gal Stakes. Last year the Swale was the lone supporting stakes on Florida Derby Day.

Racing secretary Dave Bailey said he has grouped important stakes on several other days of the meet to create "bigger, event-type days."

On March 6, Bailey has carded a pair of Grade 2 stakes, the Bonnie Miss and the Richter Scale. The Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap will share the April 3 card with the $250,000 Aventura Stakes. A pair of Grade 3 hundred-granders, the Honey Fox and the Mr. Prospector, will be carded on opening day.

The Sunshine Millions pits Florida-breds against California-breds and consists of eight races, four each at Gulfstream and Santa Anita. It will be held on Jan. 24. The richest of the eight events, the $1 million Sunshine Millions Classic, was run at Gulfstream last year but will be contested at Santa Anita in 2004. The four Sunshine Millions races to be run at Gulfstream are the $500,000 Distaff, $500,000 Turf, $300,000 Sprint, and $250,000 Oaks.