Gulfstream Park announced a record $11.25 million stakes program for its 2014-2015 Championship Meet, highlighted by the 64th running of the $1 million Florida Derby (gr. I) March 28.
The winter stakes program will have a total of 67 stakes races, 37 graded. It will include purse increases for nine stakes, the addition of two new stakes, and the inaugural running at Gulfstream of the W. L. McKnight (gr. IIIT), La Prevoyante (gr. IIIT) and Fred Hooper (gr. III), which previously had been run at Calder Casino & Race Course.
Gulfstream's 76th anniversary season of Thoroughbred racing will kick off Dec. 6 with the 15th running of the $1 million Claiming Crown day, and conclude with Florida Derby day.
Gulfstream's Championship Meet also will include six Super Saturday programs featuring more than five stakes races.
Some of the Championship Meet highlights:
· Florida Derby Day will include eight stakes races (seven graded) including the 1 1/8-mile Derby, which has produced the winners of 57 Triple Crown events. The Gulfstream Park Oaks (gr. II), which has been changed from 1 1/8 miles to 1 1/16 miles, will be joined by the Pan American (gr. IIIT), Orchid (gr. IIIT), Honey Fox (gr. IIT), Appleton (gr. IIIT), Skip Away (gr. III), and Sir Shackleton. The Honey Fox, Skip Away and Appleton have all received purse increases.
· The Feb. 21 $400,000 Fountain of Youth (gr. II), a major prep for the Florida Derby, will highlight an afternoon of eight stakes (seven graded) including three graded turf stakes in the Mac Diarmida (gr. IIT), The Very One (gr. IIIT), and Canadian (gr. IIIT).
· The Jan. 21 Holy Bull (gr. II), for 3-year-olds going 1 1/16 miles, will be one of five stakes on the afternoon, including the Forward Gal (gr. II) and Hutcheson (gr. III).
· The $500,000 Donn Handicap (gr. I) for older horses and the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (gr. IT) will be two of the six stakes (four graded) contested Feb. 7. Other graded races will include the Fred Hooper and Suwannee River (gr. IIIT).
· Four turf stakes formerly run at Calder will be moved to Gulfstream in December. The $75,000 Tropical Park Derby and $75,000 Tropical Oaks will be run Dec. 20 while the W.L. McKnight and La Prevoyante will be run Dec. 27.
· The Sunshine Millions will be Jan. 15 with five stakes worth $1.1 million, highlighted by the $350,000 Sunshine Millions Classic.
· Gulfstream will add two stakes to its schedule. The $75,000 H. Allen Jerkens will be run Jan. 31 for 4-year-olds and up on the turf at two miles, and the $75,000 Texas Glitter will be run Feb. 7 for 3-year-olds at five furlongs on the turf.
"The stakes schedule for the 2014-2015 Championship Meet shows Gulfstream Park's commitment to Thoroughbred racing, horsemen throughout North America, and our fans," said P.J. Campo, Gulfstream's vice president of racing. "We have increased the purses of nine stakes races, added two more, and tweaked some of the distances of our graded stakes to help horsemen as they prepare their horses for some of our major races later in the meet.
"The changes we've made have come after careful consideration and dialogue with horsemen from around the country. We also talked to fans and took into consideration the changes they suggested. Horsemen will find kinder progressions in distances and better spacing to some of our stakes races, and fans will see large fields and our weekends filled with major graded-stakes races."
Ten of those major races will have purse increases. The Gulfstream Park Handicap, for older horses, will be increased from $250,000 to $300,000 while the Honey Fox, for fillies and mares at a mile on the turf, will be increased from $200,000 to $300,000. The remaining stakes races getting purse increases from $100,000 to $150,000 are all grade III events. They are: the Hutcheson (3-year-olds), Herecomesthebride (3-year-old fillies), Appleton and Pan American (older horses on the turf), Marshua's River and The Very One (fillies and mares on the turf), and the Skip Away and Hal's Hope (older horses).
The Rampart, for fillies and mares at a mile, has been moved from Florida Derby day to Fountain of Youth day and will go from 1 1/8 miles to one mile. Its purse will be $100,000.