A pair of thoroughbred races that for more than three decades were signature mainstays at Calder Race Course will, for the first time Saturday, be held at Gulfstream Park.
And when racing switches to Calder next Wednesday, the 40-day meet won’t bear the Calder name. Henceforth, it will be known as “Gulfstream Park West.”
It’s all part of an ongoing rebranding process that came about when Gulfstream seized control of thoroughbred racing in South Florida by working out a six-year lease agreement with Calder earlier this summer.
Saturday’s twin finales of the Florida Sire Stakes series for 2-year-olds — the My Dear Girl and In Reality — are one example of the makeover.
For 31 years, the two races were fixtures on the Calder calendar.
Not only are they being conducted at Gulfstream for the first time, organizers tinkered with the name, going from what was always known as the Florida Stallion Stakes to the Florida Sire Stakes.
Each 11/16-mile race carries a $350,000 purse and is restricted to 2-year-olds — one dedicated to fillies only — that were nominated to the Sire Stakes (nee Stallion Stakes) program.
A number of national champions have emerged from the two races.
Gulfstream president Tim Ritvo said his track also intends to absorb some of Calder’s other bedrock stakes and fly them under the Gulfstream banner.
“We believe that Gulfstream Park is a very strong brand,” Ritvo said in explaining why the Frank Stronach-owned company is going with its own name and not Calder’s at the upcoming “boutique” fall meet there, which will go from Oct.8 through Nov.30.
During the head-to-head racing war that ended July1 when Calder gave up control of its racing dates to its cross-town rival, much more money was wagered on Gulfstream’s races, even though its summer racing cards weren’t much different than Calder’s in terms of field quality and size.
Ritvo said that was because of Gulfstream’s better name recognition nationally and locally, something he said the track hopes to capitalize on as it moves forward as a year-round entity.
“We’re trying to become the Ritz-Carlton of track operations,” Ritvo said. “We know in the summer we’re never going to be Del Mar. We’re never going to be Saratoga. But we want to be the third-most popular signal. And during the winter racing season, we want to be the No.1 signal.”