Florida (and other jurisdictions) once had high hopes that Sunday would become the equal of Saturday in drawing fans to the track. It hasn't happened. Gulfstream is giving up on forcing the issue. Its winter stakes schedule--67 races, 37 graded--doesn't include a single Sunday stakes.
MIAMI, Aug. 19, 2014--Sunday has never delivered the punch Floridaâ€™s racing industry hoped and predicted it would when it lobbied for years to lift the prohibition against it. Now, there is little chance it ever will.
NYRA senior vice president of racing operations Martin Panza has been preaching the gospel of big event days, primarily Saturdays. Gulfstreamâ€™s Tim Ritvo and P.J. Campo are disciples. Saturdays will be super at Gulfstream this winter. Sundays not so much.
Gulfstream has scheduled 67 stakesâ€”37 graded. Every one will be run on a Saturday. A half-dozen Saturdays will feature at least five stakes. Only three Saturdaysâ€”Jan. 31, Feb. 14 and March 7 will be limited to one stakes.
Eight stakes will be presented on Florida Derby Day, March 28. This has been the norm in recent years.
This year there will be other days as stakes laden. The Fountain of Youth, the final major prep for the Florida Derby on Feb. 21, also will be supported by seven stakes.
The Donn Handicap and Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap, both Grade 1 events, will be among six stakes on Feb. 7.
The meet will get off to a Super Saturday start on Dec. 6, the first day of racing after the abbreviated session under tents at Calder, with this yearâ€™s Claiming Crown program of eight stakes.
The Gulfstream Derby, which has been run on New Yearâ€™s Day, has been shifted to Saturday Jan. 3 and rechristened the Mucho Macho Man. (No offense to an exceptional horse but I think Gulfstream Derby has more cachet.) It will be the headliner of five stakes for newly turned 3-year-olds. Sprinters will have the Spectacular Bid and turf sophomores get to run for black type in the Dania Beach. Filly sprinters can go in the Old Hat and distaff turfers have the Ginger Brew.
Gulfstream will renew four stakes formerly contested at Calder in December. The Tropical Park Oaks and Tropical Park Derby are penciled in for Dec. 20. The W.L. McKnight and La Prevoyante will follow a week later.
Some overnight stakes are expected to be carded to add pizzazz to Sundays but thatâ€™s it.
Gulfstream gave Sundays every opportunity to become the equal of Saturdays. The 2011 Florida Derby was run on a Sunday, with the Gulfstream Oaks the previous day, in an attempt to create a Kentucky Oaks-Derby two-day event. It didnâ€™t happen.
Last winter's Donn Handicap was unselfishly relocated to a Sunday to help launch the new series of races on Fox Sports. Attendance and handle didnâ€™t approach a typical Saturday Donn Day.
As long as can be remembered, the winter meet featured a stakes race on most Sundays. The attendance and handle for these Sundays was virtually identical to the Sundays with no stakes carded.
So the decision was made to load up Saturdays and make Sunday just another day.
Although Sundays havenâ€™t been as big as Saturdays at most tracks around the countryâ€”there is a reason Saratoga give-away days are always on Sunday--Gulfstream has unique issues, according to Ritvo. South Florida is a tourist mecca and many travelers schedule return flights back home on Sunday. Thanks to airport security lines, travelers have to get to the airport by late afternoon even for an early evening flight.
Perhaps even more important is the fact that for the first eight or nine weeks of the winter season, Gulfstream has to buck the NFL on Sunday. The games are available on TV throughout the plant but itâ€™s not the same as the comfort of a home, particularly if you are following numerous players and games for your fantasy league.
Sunday is also traditionally a family day in the Hispanic community, a day to take the wife and kids to a park or beach or have relatives and friends over for a backyard gathering.
This combination of circumstances has pushed Gulfstream into the vanguard of tracks emphasizing big days over a well distributed stakes schedule.
Chuck Streva will be missed
Racing lost a good man last week and I lost a great friend. Chuck Streva, for decades the chart caller at Calder and Gulfstream as well as the producer of the morning line at both tracks, died after a long illness. He was 56.
In a business known for its cattiness, petty jealousies and back stabbing, Chuck was a rarity. I never met or heard of a person who didnâ€™t like him or had anything bad to say about him. Even as he was fighting for his own life, his first question would always be about some problem or issue he remembered from your life.
For the past few years, the standard greeting in the press box was, â€śHowâ€™s Chuck?â€ť or â€śHave you heard anything from Chuck.â€ť
He was so conscientious and had such a strong work ethic that whenever he had the strength, which for the past year or so wasnâ€™t often, he would come out to the track to work.
Chuck was born into a racing family. His grandfather, Dave Wilson, was one of the first to come up with speed figures as an essential tool for handicapping and was one of the widely followed public handicappers in the game. He passed on his secrets to Chuck, who would share his figs with anyone who asked and made daily selections in the Miami Herald. Chuckâ€™s uncle, Jack Wilson, was the Racing Formâ€™s lead chart caller for decades, the go-to guy for the Triple Crown races and Breedersâ€™ Cup. But for his atttachment to South Florida and his family, Chuck would have been his successor. He was that good.
Jay Privman might have said it best in a tweet on the Racing Form site when he learned of Chuckâ€™s passing. â€śYou are going to hear a lot of great things about Chuck Streva in the coming days. Believe them. They are all true.â€ť