The late racing secretary Bobby Umphrey was once asked what his reaction was in the late 1990s when Calder management told him they wanted to run an afternoon of sprint stakes in the middle of the summer worth more than $ 1 million.
“I thought they had three heads,” he responded with a wry smile.
Sixteen years later, that afternoon of sprint stakes called the Summit of Speed has become one of Florida’s biggest days of summer racing. After being cancelled by Calder management in 2014, Gulfstream has spent the past two years resurrecting the event into a premier day of racing, one that takes place Saturday, July 2 at Gulfstream Park.
This year’s $ 1.125 million Summit of Speed, highlighted by the $ 250,000 Princess Rooney (G2) and the $ 250,000 Smile Sprint (G2), a pair of Breeders’ Cup ‘Win & You’re In’ events, is once again expected to attract top horses, riders and trainers to South Florida.
“As soon as we committed to a summer program at Gulfstream Park we knew the Summit of Speed would be an important part of our schedule,” said P.J. Campo, President and General Manager of Gulfstream Park. “The Summit of Speed has a long history in Florida and it always has attracted top horses and horsemen. We want to rebuild and reinvigorate summer racing in Florida. We’ve received great support from horsemen. We need to continue to grow the program with big days like the Summit of Speed and Florida Sire Stakes.”
The Summit of Speed started in 2000 and featured trainer Bernie Flint saddling Hurricane Bertie to victory in the Princess Rooney and Swept Away to victory in the Azalea. Both were ridden by Pat Day. Meanwhile, Caller One made the first of five trips to the event with a victory in the Carry Back, and Forty One Carats established a track record under jockey Javier Castellano when winning the Smile.
The Summit grew over the next several years and played host to many of the country’s top sprinters on dirt and turf. Champion 3-year-old filly and Hall of Fame member Xtra Heat finished second in the 2002 Princess Rooney but champion sprinter Orientate won the 2002 Smile. Trainer Greg Gilchrist won the 2005 Carry Back with Harry Aleo’s Lost in the Fog. The pair returned the following year to win the Azalea Breeders’ Cup with Victorina.
The Summit has also played host to 2011 champion female sprinter Musical Romance, the multiple graded-stakes winner Happy Ticket, Gold Mover, Big Drama, Benny the Bull and Shake You Down.
This year’s Summit is expected to attract several out-of-towners including Grade I winner and 2015 Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) winner Birdatthewire and Grade 2 winner Spelling Again for the Princess Rooney, and the Grade 1 stakes-placed Limousine Liberal and stakes-placed Delta Bluesman and Chief Lion for the Smile. Trainer Marty Wolfson has several candidates for the Princess Rooney including Sugar Swirl (G3) winner Best Behavior and multiple graded-stakes placed Kiss to Remember. Trainer David Fawkes is also considering multiple Grade 1 winner Sheer Drama for the Princess Rooney.
The Summit of Speed will also feature some of the best 2-year-olds in the Birdonthewire. The 5 1/2 furlong event will feature Three Rules, Lifelong Dreamer, Sonido, Cinderela El Crome and Francesco Appeal, all impressive winners of their debut races.
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