The January 4th opening of the 2006 meet marks the beginning of a new era at Gulfstream Park.
Join the self-described devotee of the P.T. Barnum-Bill Veeck-Vince McMahon school of presentation as he and his staff approach the unveiling of the newly-renovated Gulfstream Park and prepare to usher in a new era of racing and entertainment in South Florida, featuring four spectacular restaurants, 20 luxury suites, private accommodations for top players, plus the world-class Thoroughbred racing that Gulfstream Park is renowned for.
Scott answers your questions about everything from the changes to the effects of the weather on the progress of the renovations to the big events --Sunshine Millions, Fountain of Youth, and Florida Derby-- that make Gulfstream such a special venue on the Thoroughbred landscape.
Arlington Heights, IL:
Scott, First of all, best of luck on your preparations for opening day and thanks for taking the time to answer our questions this afternoon. I've heard a lot about the front side renovations, and I'm wondering what changes horsemen will see. Have changes been made to the backside/barns at all? Also, what are the jock's quarters like? Thanks again for stopping by!
2 new dorms for grooms/hot walkers have been built. A new backside track kitchen is also open. The jockey's quarters are state-of-the-art. The fans will enjoy our new walking ring surrounded by 900 amphitheater seats.
Valley Stream, NY:
Can you please tell me where has Personable Pete been. I haven't seen him lately.
Personable Pete made his last start in January of 2005. I hope the 7 year old gelding is enjoying a well deserved life of leisure.
Fort Lauderdale, FL:
Scott- The quality of racing at Gulfstream has declined in the past few years. There are an inordinate number of maiden claiming and bottom level claiming races on the menu each day. While these type of races are easier to fill, it does nothing for those of us who were used to high quality allowance races, and high level claiming races and minor stakes. I find myself betting less at Gulfstream due to this. What are your plans to improve the quality of racing at Gulfstream?
The lack of year round simulcasting or alternative gaming has been detrimental to our purse structure. We hope to mix in more maiden and allowance races this season.
Delray Beach, FL:
Much of Gulfstream's clientele lives in Palm Beach County, 45-50 miles from the track. With on track attendance declining for years, rising gas prices, and traffic problems, why not institute a bus and/or train shuttle to the track? While it is probably on the back burner until the completion of the track/complex, beginning it now and tying it to the Gulfstream advantage club might bring more of us to the track on a regular basis.
We did a small amount of polling and found there was not enough interest to justify a bus or train shuttle. The train station is not that close to the track and a centralized bus pick up location could not be agreed upon.
Will there be an increase in the daily purse amount over last year?
We will monitor business over the first 30 days and hope a purse increase can be justified.
Now that Gulfstream & Calder have reached a simulcast agreement allowing both tracks to remain open year-round, will Gulfstream open an adjacent simulcast facility and restaurant similar to Lone Star Park?
We will use the first floor Clubhouse North as our year round simulcast area. Guests will enjoy plasma screen televisions, brand new betting carrels, and a food court.
Port Washington, NY:
Scott, I'll be visiting Gulfstream the weekend of Jan. 14-16. What can I expect regarding the progress of the renovations? Thanks, Chris
We will still be limited to the outdoor exterior areas and first floor rooms. I think you will get a great glimpse into the future presentation of racing.
I have been a regular at GP. Will there be seats on 2nd floor facing track. If so, are they included in admission to that level or at what cost?
Admission to the grounds will be free. 2nd floor trackside seats will be available on a daily basis for $10.00. Seats can be purchased at the track or online.
Diamond Bar, CA:
Is Jerry Bailey going to be in this year's Florida Derby? He's one of my favorite jockeys of all time.
Jerry is one of the all time greats. He has indicated he will be here on opening day. Beyond that, only time will tell.
Have you added a way to bring the racing action closer to the fans? I mean, besides the big screen in the middle of the course, and the otherwise binocular view around the stretch. Thanks, I'm looking forward to the opening!
Lots of rail access for all patrons. Very up close and personal compared to last year.
Grass Valley, CA:
How did you become involved in track management?
I was an owner and President of the Horsemen's Association in Florida for many years. I also served as National spokesperson for the HBPA. Frank Stronach hired me five years ago, and our team hopes to properly execute his vision, at Gulfstream, for the enhancement of a world class racetrack visit.
What will you do to increase attendance at Gulfstream?
Due to a reduction in overall capacity, we will focus on an upgraded guest relations program designed to enhance the quality of every visit. Outstanding racing will be the center piece of a day at Gulfstream.
How will Magna recoup such a major investment from the new Gulfstream?
The new clubhouse building is just the first phase in a multi-level combination of racing, entertainment, retail, and residential components.
Looking forward to the installation of slot machines, what steps are being taken to influence slot players to bet the races and become Thoroughbred fans?
We hope to design innovative ways to promote wagering on Thoroughbreds by our slot players. This will be a major focus for our operations team.
Scott, Please peer into your "crystal ball" and tell us what the "state of the state" is in Florida Thoroughbred racing in five years. Will all the various pari-mutuel entities such as harness and flat racing, greyhound racing, and jai alai be on the same "team" at that time? Will slots be legal in Dade County in 2010 - perhaps statewide? Will Hialeah re-open? Are tribal casinos and Internet wagering grave threats? Finally, can the various changes lead to greater race purses, more racehorse owners, and a growing fan base? In short, if you're an optimist, what's the "roadmap" to a successful future for Florida's racing industry?
I can only "guess" at the future of Florida racing and gaming. I do believe Gulfstream will be offering significantly higher purses and enjoy a reputation for putting on great racing surrounded by a myriad of entertainment, retail, and dining options
Please help us understand why the Florida Derby was moved from March to April last year. Aren't there enough Derby preps in April already?
The April date allows horsemen to ship directly from Gulfstream to Churchill for the Derby. This is generally regarded as being less taxing on a young 3 year old.
Belle Harbor, NY:
Scott, I have visited Gulfstream every year for the last 10. Last year was a horror, with the construction going on and the limited facilities available to the patrons. I have read that the facility is still not completed. What kind of inconveniences do we face in 2006?
For the full facility and no inconveniences you will need to delay your 2006 visit until mid-February.
Coral Gables, FL:
Many of us frequent Calder between Gulfstream meets. How about a program similar to the Twin Spires Club for the new Gulfstream. Love those free passes and other rewards!
We will offer free admission to the grounds all season. We do offer our G.P. Advantage Club for reward players.
Will Gulfstream utilize Net Pool Pricing?
The State of Florida is still investigating net pool pricing. We are hopeful to have it in place during our meet.
How many turf races do you plan to run each day?
We will start with 3 turf races per day.
Daytona Beach, FL:
Is there still easy access to the saddling area?
This season we will offer a 900 seat amphitheatre surrounding the walking ring. This will provide outstanding viewing of the horses.
Are there any new statues honoring the great horses who have raced there?
Not yet - perhaps next year.
Will we be able to watch Gulfstream races on TVG during this meet? If not, isn't this a major void for Gulfstream Park to be missing out on such a big audience?
A final decision has not yet been reached.
What is Magna's position on racing dates in Florida? Are you willing to sit down with Churchill Downs (Calder) and work together on a schedule?
The cross simulcasting arrangement signifies significant efforts by the two companies to work together to enhance the overall quality of Florida racing
White Settlement, TX:
With construction work ongoing, would it be better to hold off and have a 'grand opening' next year when the facility is complete?
We will have a "soft" opening, but look forward to having the full facility up and running by mid to late February.
Is there any chance of the meet not opening on time?
We expect to be running races on January 4th.
Are you expecting Gulfstream simulcasts at Calder to increase overall handle, or just shift handle from Gulfstream to Calder?
We feel the simulcasting program will increase overall handle. We expect Calder to see benefits during their summer meet.
With Fair Grounds closed this winter, are you expecting bigger, deeper fields?
Our field size is expected to remain relatively even with last year. There is an overabundance of maidens and turf horses who winter in Florida. Those races will see deep and full fields on a regular basis.
When will seating for the Florida Derby go on sale?
Florida Derby seats will go on sale in mid January. Please watch our web site as seating is limited.
Menominee Falls, WI:
How has the Fairgrounds relocated and shortened meet affected Gulfstream this year?
We will have to wait to gauge the effect of the Fairgrounds situation.
Mr. Savin - what do you think of the Fountain of Youth being only a gr. II when it has been a gr. I in the past? Do you think it will be upgraded again? Thanks.
We are hopeful that within two years the Fountain will earn Grade I status.
Do you envision Gulfstream running a longer meet in the next two years? If so, what dates would that change encompass?
Currently, we plan on running our traditional dates.
The 12:50 post time is great.
Thank you. We have tried to keep our post times clear from New York racing and later in the day Santa Anita.
In other sports industries, it has become a common mantra to demand the continual upgrading of facilities and the delivery of the product for fans and athletes. Will there ever be enough progressive thinking in the vast Thoroughbred industry to look to the future and work towards common goals that will set a strong foundation nationally for years to come?
I hope we will be successful in showcasing the future of Thoroughbred racing. Our presentation and entertainment amenities will elevate our sport back to its prior greatness.
The slots issue passed over a year ago, and we hardly heard a peep from you. If this was my company, I would have been screaming at the top of my lungs to be sure at the very least they would be installed for opening day. How about at least a protest organized by the four groups involved and letting the people know how Bush and his boys slowed the process to a halt and made the voters in Broward who voted the secondary issue in this matter. I would have parked my butt at the footsteps of Tallahassee until I was heard. Sorry, Scott, but we deserved a better voice than you and the other tracks gave us. Doug
Behind the scenes we were pounding the drums. There is little to be gained from public criticism of elected officials.