$1 Million Besilu Stables Florida Derby March 29
Eclipse Awards Return for Second Consecutive Year
75th Anniversary Celebration Set for Feb.1
Giveaways Begin Opening Day with 2014 Calendar
20 Cent Rainbow 6 Starts with $50,000 Guaranteed Pool
A record $10.75 million stakes schedule will showcase Thoroughbred racing's elite horses, jockeys and trainers during Gulfstream's traditional Champions Meet. A total of 63 stakes, including 34 graded stakes, will be offered during the highly anticipated meet, which will include the 43rd Eclipse Awards Jan. 18 and the 75th anniversary of Gulfstream's first Thoroughbred race Feb. 1.
Gulfstream's Champions Meet kicks off Saturday with a 12:40 p.m. post time. The 10-race program will be highlighted by two turf stakes - the $100,000 Pulpit and $100,000 Wait a While. Free 2014 Gulfstream Park calendars will be given out starting at 11 a.m. while supplies last. The calendar will be the first of several giveaways during the winter that include 75th anniversary caps, shirts, commemorative glasses and a Javier Castellano bobblehead.
Gulfstream's popular Rainbow 6, which has produced life-changing payoffs the past three season, will be a 20-cent minimum wager this year. The change allows simulcast bettors in Canada to participate on a daily basis, thereby expanding the market for the popular exotic wager. In addition to the doubling of the base wager, the percentage returned to winners on days the jackpot isn't hit has been increased to 70 percent from 60 percent.
The 63rd running of the $1 million Besilu Stables Florida Derby, of course, will rate top billing of Gulfstream's stakes races again this season. The most significant of all preps for the spring classics, the $1 million Grade 1 stakes for 3-year-olds is scheduled for March 29 and will anchor a spectacular program of eight stakes (seven graded) worth $2.05 million in purses.
Last season, Orb parlayed a victory in the Florida Derby into a Kentucky Derby triumph. The Shug McGaughey-trained colt became the 22nd Florida Derby runner to capture the Run for the Roses, while notching the 57th success in a Triple Crown event by horses that had prepped in Gulfstream’s signature race.
Once again, Gulfstream has attracted the country's top trainers and jockeys. Trainer Todd Pletcher will attempt to win an unprecedented 11th consecutive training title while competing against the likes of Bill Mott, Shug McGaughey, Eddie Plesa Jr., Martin Wolfson, Chad Brown, Dale Romans, Wesley Ward, Mark Hennig, Christophe Clement, Eddie Kenneally, Kiaran McLaughlin, Mike Maker, Nick Zito, Graham Motion, Michael Matz and Tom Albertrani.
Jockey Javier Castellano will seek his third consecutive riding title against a colony of jockeys that will include, Joel Rosario, Edgar Prado, Joe Bravo, Paco Lopez, Luis Saez, Jose Lezcano, Julien Leparoux Elvis Trujillo and John Velazquez.
Gulfstream will once again play host to several major events during the meet. On Dec. 7, the $1 million Claiming Crown comes to Gulfstream for the second consecutive year. On Jan. 18, the $1.3 million Sunshine Millions Day will serve as a perfect prelude to the 43rd annual Eclipse Awards.
Then on Feb. 1, Gulfstream will celebrate its 75th anniversary with an entire day of events, parties, specials and contests. On Feb. 1, 1939, Gulfstream opened for its first Thoroughbred races in what was sleepy Hallandale Beach. The track would operate for only four days before being shuttered for nearly five years.
"Gulfstream Park and The Stronach Group are anxious to begin our 75th anniversary season," said Gulfstream President Tim Ritvo. "We are focused on making this winter one of the most memorable for our guests as well as our horsemen. Horsemen will compete for record purses; our guests each day will see the best horses in Thoroughbred racing; and we'll host several major events that will showcase Thoroughbred racing, our facility, and Gulfstream Park's history. Once again, we've worked diligently to improve our facility. We have added 380 new stalls on our backstretch and our guests will see several new additions to our property.
"Gulfstream has come a long way in 75 years, but we believe the best is yet to come."
Once again, the Florida Derby will be supported by a series of stakes for 3-year-olds, including the $400,000 Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth (G2) on Feb. 22, the $400,000 Holy Bull (G3) on Jan. 25 and the $100,000 Gulfstream Park Derby on Jan. 1. The $300,000 Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2), slated for Florida Derby Day, will once again be the target for 3-year-old fillies being pointed toward the Kentucky Oaks. The $100,000 Old Hat (G3) on Jan. 4, the $200,000 Forward Gal (G2) on Jan. 25 and the $250,000 Davona Dale (G2) on Feb. 22 will serve as steppingstones to the Gulfstream Oaks.
While the 3-year-olds receive the most attention each season, Gulfstream will once again provide a stage for stars in every division: males and females, turf and dirt, short and long. The 15th Claiming Crown on Dec. 7 and the 12th Sunshine Millions on Jan. 18 are two special events that celebrate the diversity of Gulfstream’s racing program.
The Claiming Crown was such a rousing success last season while being contested at Gulfstream Park for the first time that an eighth race has been added for this year’s renewal and the total purse distribution has been increased from $850,000 to $1 million.
The Sunshine Millions will once again pay tribute to Florida-bred horses with six races worth a total of $1.3 million. The $400,000 Classic, won the past two years by Grade 1 stars Mucho Macho Man (2012) and Ron the Greek (2013), will highlight the program that will serve as a fitting prelude to the 43rd annual Eclipse Awards to be held that evening in the Sport of Kings facility. Last January, Gulfstream Park became the first racetrack venue to host the Eclipse Awards to rave reviews.
The top performing Thoroughbreds of 2013 in North America will be honored along with distinguished humans in the jockey, trainer, owner, breeder and special achievement categories at the awards banquet, which will culminate with the announcement of the Horse of the Year title.
Gulfstream is a perfect venue for such a star-studded occasion since the Hallandale Beach track will likely have already played host to many of the honorees during its Champions Meet due to its extensive stakes program.
Again this season, the $500,000 Donn Handicap (G1) and $300,000 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (G1) will bring the best main-track and turf horses in the country to Gulfstream to perform on the same program. The Donn, won by rising star Graydar in 2013, and the Gulfstream Turf, featuring a spectacular matchup that saw Point of Entry catch Animal Kingdom in deep stretch last season, will be renewed on the Feb. 8 program.
The 1 1/8-mile Donn, the first major handicap for older horses in the country, will be supported during the meeting by the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Handicap (G2) on March 8, the $100,000 Harlan’s Holiday on Dec. 22, the $100,000 Hal’s Hope (G3) on Jan. 11 and the $100,000 Skip Away (G3) on March 29.
The 1 1/8-mile Gulfstream Turf will be the centerpiece of a strong series of turf stakes for older horses, including the $200,000 Fort Lauderdale (G2) on Jan. 11, the $200,000 Mac Diarmida (G2) on Feb. 15, the $150,000 Canadian Turf (G3) on Feb. 22 and the $200,000 Pan American (G2) on March 29.
Older fillies and mares will also have many lucrative opportunities on dirt and turf. On the main
track, they’ll have the $100,000 Adena Springs Sugar Swirl (G3) on Dec. 14, the $150,000 Hurricane Bertie (G3) on Feb. 9, the $100,000 Sabin (G3) on Feb. 16, the $150,000 Inside Information (G2) on March 22, as well as the $150,000 Rampart (G3) on March 29. On turf, their opportunities include the $100,000 Marshua’s River (G3) on Jan. 4, the $150,000 Suwannee River (G3) on Feb. 8, the $100,000 The Very One (G3) on Feb. 15, the $150,000 Honey Fox (G2) on March 15 and the $150,000 Orchid (G3) on March 29.