By Jim Freer and Barry Unterbrink
Gulfstream Park registered record daily average all-sources handle of just under $10 million a day for its 2016-2017 championship meet that concluded April 2.
The previous average handle record for a Gulfstream meet was $9.49 million, set during its 2015-2016 championship meet.
Gulfstream reported total all-sources handle of $867 million during its 87-day championship meet of 2016-2017, up 7.3% from $807 million at its 85-day meet a year ago. This year's average daily handle of $9.97 million increased 5% compared with last year's total of $9.49 million.
Apples-to-apples comparisons of the meet's purses are difficult because of the addition of the $12 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes (G1) Jan. 28 at Gulfstream. As purses were up less than $12 million at the meet, it seems that the Pegasus, which relied on owners and stakeholders to supply its purse, accounts for the increase.
Counting the Pegasus, purses at the 2016-2017 meet were up 33% to $46,926,740. If this year's Pegasus ($12 million purse), and last year's Donn Handicap (G1) ($500,000 purse)--which became the Pegasus--are removed for the sake of comparison, all other purses at the 2016-2017 championship meet were up less than 1% (up 0.2%).
According to Jockey Club Information Systems numbers, average field size declined 6.5% to a still-strong 8.63 at the recent meet.
Gulfstream's handle increase was attributable largely to the success of its Saturdays with multiple graded stakes, as well as the Claiming Crown which it held on its opening day Dec. 3.
Most notable was Jan. 28 when Gulfstream had all-sources handle of $40,217,924 for its 12-race Pegasus card. That was the most wagering for any day of races at Gulfstream, other than when it held the Breeders' Cup in 1989, 1992, and 1999.
Off that success, Stronach Group will add $4 million to the Pegasus purse for 2018, making it $16 million. As in this year's inaugural running, the twelve Pegasus stakeholders will each put up $1 million.
On April 1, Gulfstream had all-sources handle of $30,614,677 for 14 races on Florida Derby Day. That was Gulfstream's third largest non-Breeders' Cup handle--behind this year's Pegasus day and $32,082,270 on April 2, 2016 when it had 14 races on Florida Derby day.
"The Championship Meet was extraordinary for its mix of world-class racing, events, and entertainment," said Gulfstream general manager P.J. Campo.
"From a record-setting opening day with the Claiming Crown, to the Eclipse Awards, to the first running of the Pegasus, to the Florida Derby, Gulfstream was the center of the racing world," Campo said. "We want to thank our fans for participating and continuing to inform us of ways we can serve them better.
"We also want to thank horsemen for supporting our program. While we continue to race through the summer, we're already preparing and looking forward to another outstanding 2017-2018 Championship Meet that will feature the $16 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational, the Eclipse Awards and, for the first time ever, the Clasico Internacional de Caribe."