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Big Brown (Kent Desormeaux) leads the field during the 57th Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park (March 29, 2008) in Hallendale, Florida. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Gulfstream Park: winter meeting kicks off on Wednesday with the Old Hat

  PICTURE: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images  

Gulfstream winter meet kicks off with Old Hat

Preview: USA, Wednesday 9.23pm GMT

Gulfstream Park: Old Hat Stakes (Grade 3) 6f, dirt, 3yo fillies

THE prestigious winter meeting at Gulfstream Park in Florida, home to the best of the east-coast horses for the next few months, kicks off on Wednesday with the Old Hat Stakes.

Most of the major New York trainers have flown south for the winter - among them Todd Pletcher, Bill Mott, Rick Dutrow and Kiaran McLaughlin - for a meeting that lasts until April 24.

Leading Kentucky Derby contenders such as Breeders' Cup Juvenile one-two Uncle Mo and Boys At Tosconova and star filly Awesome Feather are already in training in Florida ready for their Triple Crown campaigns.

The potential star in Wednesday's $100,000 opener is Roxy Gap (Mark Casse/Julien Leparoux), easy winner of all her three starts at Woodbine last year.

Although she has raced only on synthetic and turf, her trainer is convinced she will handle the move to dirt, in which case she will be expected to handle five rivals headed by the speedy Final Mesa (Wesley Ward/Joel Rosario).

Gulfstream has made some significant changes to its major races later in the meeting. The Grade 1 Florida Derby, one of the main trials for the Kentucky Derby, now moved back to Sunday April 3 and worth $1 million as part of a ‘Derby-Oaks' weekend, with the former Bonnie Miss renamed the Gulfstream Park Oaks on April 2.

The Donn Handicap, the $500,000 Dubai World Cup trial, takes place on February 5.


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