Three Rules, Cajun Delta Dawn, Gunnevera Lead Class of ‘16

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL
– A sensational day of racing on the Sept. 3 Florida Sire Stakes (FSS) program contributed significantly to the growing realization within the Thoroughbred industry that Gulfstream Park no longer has an offseason.

Tour de force performances by undefeated Three Rules in the $300,000 Affirmed and Cajun Delta Dawn in the $300,000 Susan’s Girl graced a program of six stakes that generated a handle of $8.101 million – an increase of more than 46 percent over betting on the second leg of FSS program in 2015.

While Gulfstream’s traditional Championship Meet spotlights established stars during the winter months, the Spring and Summer Meets showcase future stars in a lucrative, comprehensive program for juveniles that has strengthened with each passing year since 2013.

Along with a change in seasons comes a change in focus. Since April 21, more than 100 races for 2-year-olds, including maiden events, allowances and stakes, have been run, providing racing opportunities for all ability levels on the main track and turf, as well as offering attractive handicapping opportunities for bettors, whose support for Gulfstream Park’s product during the spring and summer continues to grow.

“I think there’s definitely a change for the better the past three years when it comes to the 2-year-old program in Florida,” said P.J. Campo, General Manager of Gulfstream Park and Vice President of Racing for The Stronach Group. “Honestly, I think the 2-year-old program in Florida in the summer was beginning to fall apart. Purse money for the Sire Stakes was shrinking and so were opportunities for all ability levels. But we’ve seen a dramatic turnaround. I believe the Sire Stakes is being revitalized, not only in the number of races and purses but also in the amount of money wagered on these races. The public is clearly enjoying wagering on these competitive races, and horsemen throughout North America have supported these positive changes.

“The Stronach Group is committed to growing the summer program in Florida, and I think there’s still significant room to grow the program, as well as summer racing.”

Bill White, president of the Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, said the Florida Sire Stakes, formerly the Florida Stallion Stakes when contested as Calder, has been "revived."

"When the Stallion Stakes were at Calder, it was allowed to die on the vine," White said. "It was a victim of Calder trying to get out of racing. We now have a track that cares about racing. As far as the 2-year-olds winning and making a splash nationally, historically that's what South Florida 2-year-olds were about. You can go back 25 years ago and Florida was always known for developing 2-year-olds who often times outran their pedigree. So this continuation of good 2-year-olds is what South Florida was all about, and with Gulfstream Park holding the reins, we have an entity that cares."

Lonny Powell, CEO of the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association, said "concerted efforts were put forth by both the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association and Gulfstream Park to increase opportunities and purses for Florida two-year olds in the last couple years."

"Those plans and efforts by both have paid off with the efforts to card more daily races for Florida-breds and the explosive growth of the Florida Sire Stakes," Powell added. "The program success has created the highest purses ever achieved for runners, more and more horses being nominated for the Florida Sire Stakes, and great wagering opportunities for bettors that the full fields are producing. The results so far this year are two record-breaking days at Gulfstream Park for the Florida Sires Stakes and two undefeated horses – Three Rules and Cajun Delta Dawn – going into the finals."

The revitalization of the $2.9 million Florida Sire Stakes series since moving to Gulfstream Park in 2014 further underscores the burgeoning success of the track’s 2-year-old program while providing a dramatic boost to the Sunshine State’s breeding industry.

Shade Tree Thoroughbreds’ Three Rules has carried the banner for Florida-bred Thoroughbreds with distinction, romping to victory in all four of his starts at Gulfstream by a total of 21 lengths. The Jose Pinchin-trained son of Gone Astray, who captured the $200,000 FSS Dr. Fager, will be heavily favored to pull off a sweep of the tradition-rich series for horses sired by accredited Florida stallions Oct. 1 in the $500,000 In Reality.

Three Rules’ status as a rising star was reinforced significantly when Gunnevera shipped from South Florida to capture the Saratoga Special (G2) Aug. 14. The Antonio Sano-trained Gunnevera had previously finished a solid second behind Three Rules in his debut June 10 and finished fourth behind the victorious Pinchin- trainee after encountering early trouble in the Birdonthewire Stakes July 2. The Kentucky-bred son of 2011 Florida Derby winner Dialed In graduated July 16 before venturing to Saratoga, where he rallied from last to score by a length in the Grade 2 stakes.

Sano chose to bypass the Sept. 5 Hopeful, opting to point Gunnevera to the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland Oct. 8.

David Fawkes-trained Cajun Delta Dawn is scheduled to put her unbeaten string on the line in the $500,000 FSS My Dear Girl at Gulfstream Oct. 1. The daughter of Kantharos will seek to become the first filly to sweep the FSS series for 2-year-old fillies since Awesome Feather, who went on to win the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) and an Eclipse Award. While Three Rules has toyed with his rivals thus far, Cajun Delta Dawn had to work for her victories while breaking her maiden by a neck and winning the Cassidy and the FSS Desert Vixen by a half-length and neck, respectively.

In the seven-furlong Susan’s Girl, Cajun Delta Dawn turned in a far more dominating performance, shaking off heavy pressure while racing along the inside before drawing off to win by five lengths.

Cajun Delta Dawn, Three Rules and Gunnevera are the most high-profile juveniles, but the whole Class of ’16 has greatly contributed to making racing at Gulfstream during the spring and summer months attractive to horsemen and bettors alike.