Gulfstream Park Racing & Casino announced Sept. 2 its richest stakes schedule ever for 3-year-olds, highlighted by the $1 million Florida Derby (gr. I).
The Florida Derby, which will be run Sunday, April 3, had its purse increased by $250,000 from 2010 and is one of several races receiving significant purse increases for the 2011 Gulfstream meet, which runs from Jan. 5 to April 24. The important Kentucky Derby (gr. I) prep was run for $1 million from 2001-2008 before having its purse reduced the past two years.
Two of Gulfstream’s major preps for the Florida Derby—the Jan. 29 Holy Bull (gr. III) and Feb. 26 Fountain of Youth (gr. II)—will now each be worth $400,000. The Holy Bull carried a $150,000 purse a year ago while the Fountain of Youth was $250,000. The total purse increase for the 1 1/8-mile Florida Derby and Fountain of Youth, and one-mile Holy Bull is $650,000.
All three races will also be part of the new “Preakness 5.5,” which could award an additional $5.5 million in bonus money to the winners of the 2011 Preakness Stakes (gr. I).
Gulfstream has also increased the purses of seven other stakes races for the 2011 season, including those of its major 3-year-old filly races. The seven-furlong Forward Gal (gr. II) will now be worth $200,000, the one mile Davona Dale (gr. II) $250,000, and the Gulfstream Park Oaks (gr. II, formerly the Bonnie Miss) will have a purse of $300,000. The overall purse increase of the three races is $250,000.
The Florida Derby and Gulfstream Park Oaks will highlight Florida Derby Festival Weekend. Both the Oaks and $150,000 Rampart Handicap (gr. II) will be run April 2, while the Derby will be one of four stakes races run April 3 along with the $150,000 Swale Stakes (gr. II), $100,000 Appleton Handicap (gr. IIIT), and $100,000 Skip Away Handicap (gr. III).
Gulfstream also increased its overnight purses by approximately 15% over last winter.
“This increase in Gulfstream’s stakes purses and the substantial increase of our overnight purses is another sign of our commitment to having the best racing in the country,” said Gulfstream’s general manager Steve Calabro. “Gulfstream continues to be the winter home of horses that compete in the Triple Crown, Breeders’ Cup, and major races throughout the year.”
Gulfstream’s 2011 program also includes purse hikes to the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (gr. IT) for 4-year-olds and up, the $150,000 Suwannee River (gr. IIIT) and $150,000 Hurricane Bertie (gr. III) for fillies and mares.
The ninth annual Sunshine Millions will be held Jan. 22, while 53rd running of the $500,000 Donn Handicap (gr. I) will be run Feb. 5.