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A new era in Florida racing begins Wednesday when the inaugural Fall Turf Festival is run at Gulfstream Park West. Under an agreement with Churchill Downs Inc., the Fall Turf Festival, located eight miles west of Gulfstream Park at Calder Race Course, will be operated by the management of Gulfstream Park. Earlier this year, Calder and Gulfstream Park agreed to stop racing against one another and Calder would essentially cede all of South Florida thoroughbred racing to Gulfsream, which is owned by Marion County land baron Frank Stronach. More than $2.5 million has been invested so far in the 44-day boutique meet which will attract many of the country's top stables, including Todd Pletcher, Nick Zito, Bill Mott, Chad Brown, Eddie Plesa Jr., Marty Wolfson, David Fawkes, Wesley Ward, Ralph Nicks and Christophe Clement.
First race post is 1:05 p.m. through Nov. 1. First race post will be 12:35 p.m. beginning Nov. 2. Racing will be conducted Wednesday through Monday with the exception being Wednesday, Oct. 15 and Wednesday, Nov. 12, and Monday Nov. 10 and 24. There will be live racing Tuesday, Nov. 11.
The Fall Turf Festival will offer win, place and show wagering, exacta, doubles, trifectas, Pick 3, Pick 4, Pick 5, Super Hi 5 and Rainbow 6. Takeouts will be the same as they were this summer at Gulfstream Park.
There will be a limited simulcast wagering menu at Gulfstream Park West on live race days and simulcast wagering will end after the last race from Santa Anita Park. Gulfstream Park will remain open throughout the Fall Turf Festival for all simulcasts.
Gulfstream, which is leasing the racing facility as part of a six-year agreement with Churchill Downs, has not only cleaned and rebranded the front side but has also refurbished the dormant turf course and done extensive renovations on 15 barns.
"Our agreement is going to allow us to rejuvenate the fall racing season in Florida with quality horses and quality racing," said Gulfstream President Tim Ritvo. "We have spent considerable time and energy making changes at Gulfstream Park West not only for the horsemen but also the fans. While Gulfstream will remain open for simulcasting, we want the local community to feel welcome and comfortable at Gulfstream Park West.
"The Stronach Group's initiative is to improve racing for the fans. horsemen and breeders over the long-term."
The 44-day boutique meet will feature 23 stakes races 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.
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