Edited Gulfstream Release – The 2020-2021 Championship Meet at Gulfstream Park will get under way Wednesday for the first of 84 days of Thoroughbred racing contested by the most popular and accomplished horses, trainers and jockeys in the country.
Racing will be conducted primarily on a Wednesday-Sunday schedule with a first-race post time set at 12:35 p.m. through March 27. Under COVID-19 pandemic protocols, racing will be conducted without spectators. Gulfstream’s races will be streamed live at 1/STBet.com, Xpressbet.com; and gulfstreampark.com.
The 2020-2021 Championship Meet will offer a stakes schedule of 75 stakes, 36 graded, worth $13.06 million in purses.
The $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) and the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1) will be run Jan. 23, co-headlining a program with seven graded stakes. The Pegasus World Cup, won by Mucho Gusto last year, has been designated as a ‘Win and In’ race for the $20 million Saudi Cup in Riyadh Feb. 20. The Pegasus World Cup Turf will be a qualifier for the $1 million Middle Distance Turf Handicap on the Saudi Cup undercard.
The $800,000 Florida Derby (G1), which has produced the winners of 60 Triple Crown races, will headline a March 27 program that will offer 10 stakes, 6 graded, including the $250,000 Gulfstream Park Oaks. The 2020 Florida Derby was won by Tiz the Law, who went on to win the Belmont (G1). Swiss Skydiver, who captured the Gulfstream Park Oaks, went on to beat the boys in the Preakness Stakes (G1).
Gulfstream’s program for 3-year-olds will kick off with the $100,000 Mucho Macho Man Dec. 12, followed by the $200,000 Holy Bull (G3), a 1 1/16-mile Florida Derby prep that will headline a Jan. 30 program with five graded stakes, including the $100,000 Swale (G3), a seven-furlong sprint for 3-year-olds. The $350,000 Fountain of Youth (G2), the 1 1/16-mile final prep for the Florida Derby, will be featured on a Feb. 27 program with nine graded stakes.
The Road to the Gulfstream Park Oaks will start with the $100,000 Forward Gal, a seven-furlong sprint for 3-year-old fillies on the Jan. 30 Holy Bull undercard. The $200,000 Davona Dale, the mile final prep for the Gulfstream Park Oaks, will be contested on the Feb. 27 Fountain of Youth undercard.
The $200,000 Fort Lauderdale (G2) kicks off Gulfstream’s turf program Dec. 12 while offering an opportunity for Pegasus World Cup Turf invitational candidates to prep over the Gulfstream turf course. The $200,000 Mac Diarmida (G2), a 1 3/8-mile race for 4-year-olds and up, will be one of six graded turf stakes on the Fountain of Youth card. The $200,000 Pan American, a 1 ½-mile stakes for 4-year-olds and up, will top six turf stakes on the Florida Derby program.
The 2020-2021 stakes program will launch Saturday with the return of the Claiming Crown, a popular program for horses that have started for a claiming price at least once during the past two years. The $150,000 Jewel, a 1 1/8-mile stakes for 3-year-olds and up that have started for a claiming price of $35,000 or lower, is featured among nine Claiming Crown stakes. Jesus’ Team, who finished third in the Preakness and second in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1), is expected to headline the field for the Jewel.
Irad Ortiz Jr. will be back to defend the riding titles he won in 2018-2019 and 2019-2020. Luis Saez, who finished second behind Ortiz by just one and two wins respectively, will seek to regain the title he won the previous two seasons. Hall of Famers John Velazquez, fresh off his Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) victory aboard Authentic, Javier Castellano, a five-time Championship Meet titlist; and Edgar Prado, who ranks eighth all-time with 7,089 wins, will head a jockey’s colony that will include young guns Tyler Gaffalione, Jose Ortiz, and South Florida’s year-round leader Edgard Zayas.
Todd Pletcher, who regained his training title last season, will seek his 17th Championship Meet title. Horsemen shipping in include Shug McGaughey, Bill Mott, Mike Maker, Mark Casse, Ken McPeek, Chad Brown and Christophe Clement. New stables at Gulfstream and its satellite training center Palm Meadows in Palm Beach include Brad Cox, Jack Sisterson, Brittany Russell, Jeremiah Englehart and Butch Reid.
“We’re extremely optimistic for a fantastic Championship Meet,” said Mike Lakow, Vice President of Racing at Gulfstream. “The barns are full with many of the top trainers, including some wintering here for the first time. We’re also happy with the way our turf course has thrived during the extreme rainy season here this fall.”
The 20-cent Rainbow 6, the innovative multi-race wager that has produced many life-changing payoffs over the years, will again be prominent on Gulfstream’s wagering menu. The Rainbow 6, which will span the final six races each day, will be kicked off Wednesday with a $50,000 jackpot guarantee. Wednesday’s Rainbow 6 sequence will span Races 5-10, including back-to-back optional claiming allowances in Races 8 and 9.
Shadwell Stable’s Ashaar is scheduled to make his first start for Pletcher in Race 8, a six-furlong sprint for 3-year-olds and up. The 3-year-old son of Into Mischief hasn’t seen action since finishing off the board in the Jan. 4 Mucho Macho Man at Gulfstream. Reeves Thoroughbred Racing’s Ournationonparade, the only stakes winner in the field, will make his first start since finishing fifth in the Sept. 5 Smile Sprint (G3) at Gulfstream. Saez has been named to ride Ashaar, while Luca Panici is set to ride the Kathy Ritvo-trained Ournationonparade.
Tracy Farmer’s Catch a Thrill, who has finished second in his three most recent starts, will be looking to break through with a win in Race 9, a five-furlong turf dash for fillies and mares. The Mark Casse-trained daughter of City Zip, who finished second in the Feb. 23 Melody of Colors at Gulfstream, will be ridden by Cristian Torres.