Coglianese Photos

Large Crowd For Gulfstream Opening

Biggest turnout at Florida track in years.

Gulfstream Park said its opening day attendance was more than 15,000 Jan. 3, making it the largest turnout at the Hallandale Beach, Fla., track since 2004.

Gulfstream has free admission and does not tabulate official attendance at its clubhouse/casino complex that it began using in 2005 and completed in 2006. It uses concession sales and wagering data for attendance estimates.

Gulfstream’s all-sources handle for its 2009 opening day was $10,407,202.38 for nine races. That was almost 8% higher than wagering of $9,672,906.50 for 10 races on its first 2008 Saturday, which was Jan. 5.

On this year’s opening day, on-track handle was $984,379.80; inter-track wagering (ITW) was $529,223, and intrastate handle (ISW) was $8,893,599.58. Unlike in 2008, Gulfstream is available on this year, thus adding an undetermined amount to the ISW total.

"This is what racing is all about," said Gulfstream Park president and general manager Bill Murphy. "There were a few opening-day glitches, but we had them ironed out in short order and all in all it was a great day of racing.

Murphy said the crowd was larger than what Gulfstream officials expected.

That led to long lines at some betting windows, on a mild and sunny day that no doubt was part of the attraction.

But most fans seemed to be patient in the area near the finish line and in the tikki-bar area about 100 yards south of the finish line.

This year, Gulfstream has increased its number of free parking spots from about 3,000 to more than 5,000.

"That was helpful today" and will be important on upcoming Saturdays, Murphy said.