Gulfstream Park Racing & Casino announced Aug. 5 that its 2011-12 race meet will feature 53 stakes races (33 graded) worth $9 million. The meet’s signature race, the $1 million Florida Derby (gr. I) will be run Saturday, March 31. Last year the Florida Derby was run on a Sunday program.
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 $1.86 million. Six of the seven races will be graded, including the Gulfstream Park Oaks (gr. II).
The Florida Derby program will include the Oaks, and the $150,000 Rampart (gr. III), $150,000 Orchid (gr. IIIT) $100,000 Appleton (gr. IIIT), and $100,000 Skip Away (gr. III).
To view the entire stakes schedule in PDF format, click here.
Gulfstream’s season this year will run from Dec. 3-April 8. 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 the track to run 1 1/16th mile races, including the Feb. 26 Fountain of Youth (gr. II) and Jan. 1 Gulfstream Park Derby for 3-year-old colts, and Feb. 25 Davona Dale Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. The Fountain of Youth, a major prep for the Florida Derby, will be run at 1 1/16 miles for the first time since 2004. The race has been run at 1 1/8 miles six of the last seven years and at a mile in 2009.
--Five additional stakes races worth $300,000.
--Four graded stakes races on Feb. 11, including the $500,000 Donn Handicap (gr. I) and $300,000 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (gr. IT).
--The weekend of Jan. 28-29 will feature the $400,000 Holy Bull Stakes (gr. III) for 3-year-olds, $200,000 Forward Gal Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, 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 on New Year’s Day.
--Three graded stakes races for fillies and mares Feb. 25 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.
“We are 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 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.”
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 Jan. 29, the $150,000 Hutcheson (gr. II) at seven furlongs Feb. 11, and the Swale Stakes (gr. II) at seven furlongs March 10.
Gulfstream will also play host to "Florida Bonanza Day" April 7, a day of racing highlighted by several Florida-bred stakes races.