By Bill Finley
Recognizing that stakes horses have limited options as to where to run due to shutdown of several tracks, Gulfstream has begun the process of adding new races to its schedule, including an Apr. 25 stakes for 3-year-olds. The race has been named the Unbridled S. and will be contested at a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the dirt with a purse of $75,000.
The story was first reported by horseracingnation.com.
Though a $75,000 purse would not normally be big enough to attract top-echelon horses, the Unbridled could prove to be an attractive option for horsemen who simply want to get a race into their horses while continuing on the uncertain path to the GI Kentucky Derby. The race will be run one week before the GI Arkansas Derby, but some Florida-based trainers said they are reluctant to ship out of Gulfstream because of the many requirements management has put in place regarding horses and their handlers leaving the three tracks–Gulfstream Park, Gulfstream Park West and Palm Meadows–it operates. Any horse attempting to get back on a Gulfstream-run property must first quarantine in Ocala and no humans may return with the horse.
“We're not trying to hurt the Arkansas Derby,” said Gulfstream's Vice President of Racing Mike Lakow. “What we're trying to do is offer an alternative to horses that don't want to ship and may not be good enough to run against the top horses in the country. We should have enough horses to make this race go.”
The Arkansas Derby is expected to attract a star-studded field headed by the Bob Baffert-trained 'TDN Rising Star' pair of Nadal (Blame) and Charlatan (Speightstown).
The revamped stakes schedule also includes the May 9 Sunshine Forever S., a $75,000 grass race for 4-year-olds and upward. The distance is a mile-and-a-sixteenth.
“We have a lot of horses here who will fit that race,” Lakow said. “On Florida Derby day, the [GIII] Appleton S. overfilled and we also ran a money allowance last weekend that had 10 starters.”
Lakow said the racing office is also looking at creating a new dirt race for 3-year-old fillies and another on the dirt for older males. He said it was possible there would be another 3-year-old stakes carded in May or June.
The Gulfstream horse colony is a lot stronger than it normally would be at this time of year as stables that typically leave for Kentucky, New York and New Jersey have had to stay put in Florida. Lakow said racing secretary Dave Bailey will continue to monitor the horse colony and may start to add more overnight races geared toward higher class horses.
Gulfstream is one of only a handful of tracks still running during the coronavirus outbreak, but no one there is taking the situation for granted. Gulfstream continues to roll out new protocols in order to keep everyone involved in South Florida racing as safe as possible.
“We're as tight as can be and setting new protocols every day and are trying to keep the industry going,” Lakow said. “Everybody is wearing masks and gloves; grooms come in to paddock wearing masks and gloves. We're not allowing new jockeys to come in. We want to keep the jockey colony relatively small. No jockeys are allowed to work horses, and they can't go into the barn areas. We take the temperatures of everybody when they go in the barn area.”
Lakow said that Gulfstream does have available stalls and would welcome new horses, so long as their connections abide by the safety protocols. Before an out-of-town horse can race at Gulfstream, it must spend 14 days in quarantine at one of the many training centers in Ocala. Trainers and staff that have not already been stabled at one of the Gulfstream-operated tracks will not be permitted to come with the horses once they leave Ocala.
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