Wednesday, September 6, 2023
HALLANDALE BEACH - The Florida Sire Stakes will be featured on Saturday’s program at Gulfstream Park, where the tradition-rich annual series for 2-year-olds sired by accredited Florida stallions will get under way a little later than usual.
Traditionally scheduled for the last Saturday of July or first Saturday in August, the $100,000 Dr. Fager and the $100,000 Desert Vixen for fillies will launch a revamped schedule that is designed to benefit horses, owners and breeders by a later start and more time between races.
“We thought as a horseman’s group that it was important, and the breeders got on board,” said trainer Joe Orseno, president of the Florida Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association. “I think we’ll see in the long run that horses will stay sounder and compete longer in life.”
The six-furlong Dr. Fager and Desert Vixen will be followed on the new spread-out schedule by the $200,000 Affirmed and the $200,000 Susan’s Girl for fillies at seven furlongs on Oct. 21 and the $300,000 In Reality and the $300,000 My Dear Girl for fillies at 1 1/16 miles on Dec. 2.
The new FSS schedule provides greater opportunity for late-developing 2-year-olds.
“The horses that were bought out of the June sale, those horses had no chance to compete in the first leg. Now, they have the opportunity just like the March and April babies,” Orseno said.
The revamped schedule is expected to make the long-standing juvenile series even better.
“It’s a very important program. No 1, for the stallions. It gives them a chance to showcase their babies while running against the offspring of other Florida stallions,” Orseno said. “It’s a good program for people who want to race Florida-breds and run them in South Florida.”
The FSS series has produced national stars in the past, including two Jacks or Better Farm home-breds -- Awesome Feather, who swept the 2010 FSS series before winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and an Eclipse Award, and Jackson Bend, who swept the FSS series in 2009 before going on to become a Gr. 1 stakes-winning millionaire. Harold Queen’s Big Drama, who swept the 2008 FSS series, went on to capture the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Sprint and an Eclipse Award as North America’s champion sprinter.
A field of 10 colts and geldings has been assembled for the Dr. Fager, including Leon King Stable Corp.’s undefeated Bentornato, who is coming off a sparkling 4 ½-length victory in the six-furlong Proud Man at Gulfstream, and BC Racing’s Dickens, a first-out winner who finished third in the Gr. III Sanford at Saratoga after setting a pressured pace.
Averill Racing and Two Eight Racing’s R Harper Rose, who produced a dazzling a 6 ¼-length debut victory, will need to outrun seven other talented fillies to capture her stakes debut in the Desert Vixen.
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