Item 1: On February 5, a dinner was held at Gulfstream Park to honor Kentuckian Don Brumfield, a Hall of Fame jockey, who works as a steward at the racetrack. In addition to Don, another Hall of Fame jockey was in attendance, Walter Blum.

Don Brumfield is best known for winning the 1966 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes on Kauai King, a son of Native Dancer, who also won two-thirds of the Triple Crown. Native Dancer’s only career loss came in the Kentucky Derby, by the slimmest of heartbreaking margins to Dark Star.

The tribute to Brumfield was organized by Bill Hirsch, whose father Buddy Hirsch and grandfather Max Hirsch are two of the greatest trainers in history, as recognized by their inclusion in the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. Max, Buddy, and Bill all trained for the famed King Ranch of Texas. Max Hirsch is perhaps best remembered for training King Ranch’s 1946 Triple Crown winner Assault. Bill Hirsch is no longer training but is the managing partner of Trackmen Golf Club Stable.

Another attendee at the dinner, Bob Quigley, will be inducted this coming summer into the Harness Racing Hall of Fame; he is the founding father of Meadowlands Racetrack. Bob commented that he wants to remain in the living-members section of the Hall of Fame as long as possible before seguing into the immortal section for deceased members.

Bill Hirsch’s next dinner will honor Hall of Fame jockey Bobby Ussery.

Item 2: On February 9, Gulfstream had a large and enthusiastic crowd to watch a card that included several stakes races. The Grade I Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap at 1 1/8 miles was particularly interesting because it had among the entries the 2011 Kentucky Derby winner and 2012 Breeders’ Cup Mile second-place finisher Animal Kingdom. He was pitted against Point of Entry, the Phipps Stable 5-year-old, who ran second in the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Turf at a mile and a half. Both of these horses could easily have won their Breeders’ Cup races with better in-race positioning.

The crowd around the paddock walking ring gave loud recognition to Animal Kingdom. He went off as the post-time favorite at 4-5 odds, whereas Point of Entry closed at 2-1.

In my view, Point of Entry should have been the betting favorite. He overpowered the field in the Grade I Sword Dancer Invitational at Saratoga in August 2012 and came back in the Breeders’ Cup in early November and ran strong. Thus it was not surprising when Point of Entry came out on top of Animal Kingdom. Point of Entry is arguably the best horse in training in the United States. Being by El Prado and superbly conformed, he will be attractive at stud. Plans are for Point of Entry to run in the Arlington Million and the Breeders’ Cup Turf.

The exceptional trainers of Point of Entry and Animal Kingdom, Claude “Shug” McGaughey III and Graham Motion, respectively, are exemplary representatives of Thoroughbred racing in the United States. Both are fierce competitors, but also are gracious in winning and losing.

After the race, Motion tweeted: “AK heading home. Not a happy camper. Beaten by G1 horse with HOF connections. Hopefully onto Dubai.”

It is amazing how Barry Irwin of Team Valor repeatedly comes up with stakes horses, as with Animal Kingdom. The proof is in the pudding and Irwin has demonstrated time and again that he is a keen judge of racing potential. Team Valor has a sterling record of success.

Item 3. Whenever I attend Gulfstream Park, I sometimes contemplate what the place will look like if the owner, Frank Stronach, goes ahead with his plan to add 50,000 or so seats (and two hotels). Some of the additions will be near the finish line, but most won’t. This seems to be a case of architectural form not following function, but I hope to be pleasantly surprised by the finished product.

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