Wednesday, October 01, 2014


Gulfstream West Undergoes Renovations for Upcoming Fall Turf Festival


HALLANDALE BEACH, FL - In preparation for the upcoming Gulfstream Park Fall Turf Festival, the facilities at Gulfstream Park West, formerly Calder Race Course, have undergone extensive renovations.


Overseen by Gulfstream Park consultant Bill Badgett, the project has been in the works since Gulfstream took over management of the Miami Gardens property earlier this summer. Under an agreement with Churchill Downs, Inc. that was agreed to in July to end head-to-head racing in South Florida, Gulfstream is leasing the racetrack, including 15 barns on the track’s backside. Those barns have been completely cleaned and refurbished with fresh paint, wider shedrows lined with new footing, and newly installed electrical outlets. The stalls in each barn have also been equipped with new eyehooks for buckets and stall guards as well as custom-fitted mats designed to provide comfortable, sure footing for the horses. The turf course at Gulfstream Park West has also been renovated, having been weeded, fertilized, and given additional soil.

“We went through each stall and through the barn area. We had to replace about 230 of the feed tub holders, and we went around and put in about 350 eyehooks so people could have some place to hang their water buckets," Badgett said. "We put virtually 1,000 pounds of clay at each end of the barn for the stalls. We wanted to go the extra mile to make everybody happy, and when they shipped their horses in from other racetracks, everybody would be very comfortable.”

See video of Gulfstream Park West at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ge4HTE-kovE&feature=youtu.be

The renovations have delighted the trainers on site, who say that the improved conditions not only boost morale in the barn but also allow them to do their jobs more efficiently. The group of supporters includes trainer Bill White, who won 15 training titles at Calder and has spent almost 30 years training in South Florida.

“The backside now has a freshness about it that was lacking previously,” White said. “I came here in 1986, so I’ve spent now more than half my life on the backside here at Calder. I was glad about Gulfstream taking over. I’m very excited and I think a lot of other people are excited to have some new blood in here – Gulfstream – putting some money in, some fresh ideas, and trying to get this thing turned around.”

Fellow trainer Marcus Vitali, who saddled Lochte to win the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (G1) during last year’s Championship Meet, echoed those sentiments.

“It’s amazing,” he said. “I’ve been coming back and forth between Gulfstream and Calder for the last six years, and I’ve never seen Calder in this condition. It’s amazing what they’ve done to the backside. I couldn’t ask for more.”

Phil Combest, a longtime trainer and the president of the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (FHBPA), similarly expressed his pleasure about how the renovations benefit the horses.

“The horses really need to be able to lay down and relax in their stall, and it was impossible before,” he said. “With the re-claying and the painting and everything, the horses are happier, the barns have got a better breezeway through there, and I think the help are going to be terrifically surprised when they move into their dormitory rooms.”

The Gulfstream Park Fall Turf Festival is slated to begin on October 8 and will run through November 30. The 40-day boutique meet will feature 23 stakes worth a total of $1.775 million. Highlights include the $600,000 Sunshine Millions Preview Day, featuring eight $75,000 stakes races for Florida-breds, on November 8 as well as the $100,000 Tropical Turf Handicap (G3) and $100,000 My Charmer (G3), both on November 22.

“When the quality of racing improves, there’s owners out there that are watching,” White said. “Everybody now, whether it be through Internet, television, or whatever, they have access to know what’s going on. When these owners see that the racing in South Florida is now improving, it’s going to now create the opportunity for new horses and new owners to send their horses here, and being a trainer, that’s good for me.”



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