A year-round racing schedule hasn't tempered enthusiasm for what Gulfstream Park calls its Championship meet.
For 85 racing programs from Dec. 5, 2015, through April 3, all-sources pari-mutuel handle on live racing was a record $807 million, up 15% from $704 millon for the comparable meet in 2014-15, track officials said. Based on those numbers, average daily handle was $9.49 million.
The Florida track ran 929 races during the meet. Average handle per race was more than $868,000.
"Despite an inclement December and 57 races being taken off the turf, we continued to build our racing program with incredible equine and human performances and wonderful support from horsemen throughout North America," said Gulfstream general manager P.J. Campo, who also serves as vice president of racing for The Stronach Group. "We still believe there's plenty of room for growth in our Championship meet and we're excited about our summer program; a program we continue to reinvigorate."
Gulfstream, after a long battle with nearby Calder Race Course & Slots that made for head-to-head racing, in 2014 struck a deal with the Churchill Downs Inc.-owned track by which it took over Calder's dates. Gulfstream operates a 40-day meet at Calder under the Gulfstream Park West banner in the fall and races the other 10 months at home.
According to The Jockey Club Information Systems, Gulfstream during its Championship meet paid $34.33 million in purses for a daily average of $403,958; the numbers were up 5.6% and 1.9%, respectively, from the 2014-15 meet.
The 2015-16 meet purse total includes $3.74 million in Florida Owner Awards.
Strong field size played a role in the wagering record; the average number of horses per race was 9.19, which was down from 9.44 the previous season.
A few other records were set during the meet. On April 2 a 14-race program that included the Xpressbet.com Florida Derby (gr. I) generated total handle of $32.08 million, a Gulfstream Park record with the exception of the days the track hosted the Breeders' Cup. On March 28 a mandatory payout and carryover of almost $4.5 million for the Rainbow 6 fueled a North American record Pick 6 pool of $15.18 million.