Gulfstream Park Racing & Casino has announced today its 2011-12 race meet will feature 53 stakes races (33 graded) worth $9 million, highlighted by the $1 million Florida Derby (G1) on Saturday, March 31.
The 1 1/8th mile Florida Derby, which has produced the winners of 40 Triple Crown events in its 60-year history, will highlight a program featuring seven stakes races worth a total of $1.86 million. Six of the seven races will be graded, including the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2).
Gulfstream’s Grade I season, which runs from December 3 through April 8, will once again draw the top 3-year-old colts and fillies in North America as well as the top older horses and turf stars.
Along with its first-ever December opening, there will be several changes to Gulfstream’s schedule. They include:
• The installation of a second finish line down the stretch of its main track, allowing Gulfstream to run 1 1/16th mile races, including the $400,000 Fountain of Youth (G2) on February 26 and $100,000 Gulfstream Park Derby January 1 for 3-year-old colts, and $250,000 Davona Dale for 3-year-old fillies on February 25.
• Five additional stakes races worth $300,000.
• Four graded stakes races on its February 11th program, including the $500,000 Donn Handicap (G1) and $300,000 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (G1).
• The weekend of January 28-29 will feature the $400,000 Holy Bull (G3), $200,000 Forward Gal and the 10th anniversary of the Sunshine Millions, featuring the $300,000 Distaff, $300,000 Turf and $200,000 Sprint.
• The country’s first Derby of the season, the $100,000 Gulfstream Park Derby New Year’s Day.
• Three graded stakes races for fillies and mares February 25th including the Davona Dale.
• The Spectacular Bid at six furlongs and the Dania Beach at a mile on the turf, historically run for 3-year-olds, will be run for 2-year-olds in December.
In order to better accommodate horsemen with 3-year-olds pointed toward the Triple Crown, the $400,000 Fountain of Youth, a major prep for the Florida Derby, will be run at 1 1/16th miles for the first time since 2004. The race has been run at 1 1/8th miles six of the last seven years and at a mile in 2009.
“We are very excited and looking forward to our upcoming season and building off last year’s success,” said Gulfstream President and General Manager Timothy Ritvo. “We believe the stakes schedule offers the perfect program for 3-year-olds pointing toward the spring classics, and there are numerous opportunities for older horses on both the dirt and turf.
“While running the Florida Derby last season on the first Sunday in April was a huge success, a similar schedule this year would have resulted in running the Florida Derby on Palm Sunday. Because we don’t want to exclude our customers and fans in New York from one of our biggest days, we decided to run the Florida Derby this season on the last Saturday in March.”
Gulfstream’s stakes schedule for horses pointing toward the Triple Crown will once again be rich in opportunity. Along with the Gulfstream Park Derby and Fountain of Youth, the 3-year-old schedule also includes the $400,000 Holy Bull at a mile January 29, the $150,000 Hutcheson (G2) at seven furlongs February 11, and the Swale (G2) at seven furlongs March 10.
The Florida Derby program is sure to be one of the finest racing days of the calendar year. Gulfstream will play host to seven stakes races on Derby day, including six graded. They are: the Florida Derby, $300,000 Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2), $150,000 Rampart (G3), $150,000 Orchid (G3) $100,000 Appleton (G3), and $100,000 Skip Away (G3).
Gulfstream will also offer a rich program for 3-year-old fillies throughout the season. The March 31 Gulfstream Park Oaks will be the culmination of a series of filly races that will include the Forward Gal and Davona Dale.
Gulfstream’s 2011-12 season kicks off for the first time in its 69-year history in December. The opening week’s stakes schedule will include the 30th running of the $100,000 Spectacular Bid Stakes for 2-year-olds going six furlongs on December 3.
The first of Gulfstream’s 33 graded stakes occurs December 10 with the $100,000 Sugar Swirl (G3) for fillies and mares. The weekend of December 17 features the $60,000 Harlan’s Holiday for 3-year-olds and up and the $100,000 Dania Beach for 2-year-olds going a mile on the turf. The $100,000 Mr. Prospector (G3) for 3-year-olds and up going six furlongs will be run New Year’s Eve.
Gulfstream will also play host to Florida Bonanza Day on April 7, a day of racing highlighted by several Florida-bred stakes races.