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Edited Gulfstream Staff Release  Gulfstream Park will mark the return of a five-day week of live racing Thursday with the long-awaited return of turf racing, the arrival of trainers and jockeys from around the country, and a significant increase in purses for open optional claiming allowances and maiden special weight races.

            In advance of the 2022-2023 Championship Meet that will get underway Dec. 26, live racing will be conducted on a Wednesday-through-Sunday schedule starting with Thursday’s nine-race program. Post time has been set at 12:10 p.m. each racing day. The weekend programs include horses entered from the stables of Todd Pletcher, Bill Mott, Brendan Walsh, Christophe Clement and Brian Lynch. Jockeys Luis Saez and Julien Leparoux are both named to ride this weekend.

            The first races on turf since June will be run on Thursday’s program. The course is virtually identical to the one at sister track Santa Anita from the bottom up, from the base to the pad to the turf itself.

            “Having turf is obviously a fan favorite and the owners and trainers love it. But what we found over the years is by using it so much, we never had the chance to actually renovate it. So, in 2022, we made the decision to completely stop on the turf and we brought in who we believe is one of the best turf guys in America, if not the world, Leif Dickinson,” Aidan Butler, CEO, I/ST Racing and Gaming, said. “Leif has completely renovated it. We expect to have some great racing on it.

            Dickinson serves as I/ST Racing’s Vice President Turf Surfaces.

Also starting Thursday, purses for open maiden special weight events will be increased to $70,000, while the purses for open optional claiming allowance races will range from $71,000-$73,000.

Three turf races are carded for Thursday’s program, kicked off in Race 1 by a full field of 12 2-year-old maidens, who’ll compete at a mile or a $25,000 maiden claiming price. In Race 5, a mile optional claiming allowance with a field of 11 3-year-olds and up, Michael Maker-trained Chess’s Dream, the 2021 Kitten’s Joy (G3) winner on turf at Gulfstream, makes his local return under a $20,000 claiming tag. In the Race 8 feature, a five-furlong optional claiming allowance for fillies and mares with a $72,000 purse, Brian Lynch-trained Mamba Wamba returns to Gulfstream, where the 3-year-old Irish-bred filly closed from well off the pace to win on turf in her U.S. debut Dec. 23. She is scheduled to return from a seven-month layoff. Augustin Stable’s Empress Tigress, who captured the Coronation Cup Stakes and finished second in the Galway Stakes at Saratoga, enters Thursday’s feature off a second-place finish in an Oct. 22 Keeneland allowance.

            Three more turf races are scheduled for Friday’s program, including a $72,000 optional claiming allowance in Race 8 for fillies and mares going 7 ½ furlongs. Brian Lynch-trained Fast as Flight, who graduated on turf at Gulfstream in February, enters Friday’s feature off an off-the pace win on turf at Churchill Downs.

            Saturday’s 10-race program is scheduled to offer six races on turf. Sunday will close out the weekend racing action with five races scheduled for turf.

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