A large crowd turned out for the first Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes

A large crowd turned out for the first Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes

Photos by Z

First Pegasus Registers Record Handle for Gulfstream

Stronach Group hopes to keep the race in at Gulfstream Park next year.

By Jim Freer and Barry Unterbrink

In a rousing pari-mutuel wagering success, Gulfstream Park registered all-sources handle of $40,217,924 on its Jan. 28 Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) card, setting a handle record for the track (not counting days it hosted the Breeders' Cup World Championships).

The record handle was fueled by betting on the $12 million Pegasus World Cup won by Arrogate , which saw more than $11.1 million wagered. Gulfstream's previous non-Breeders' Cup record was $32,082,270 set April 2, when it had 14 races including the Florida Derby (G1).

The day's handle was more than twice the amount wagered on last year's Donn Handicap (G1) card—the race replaced this year by the Pegasus. The handle also was more than twice the amount wagered on the 2015 William Hill Haskell Invitational Stakes (G1) day at Monmouth Park, when Triple Crown winner American Pharoah  won the Haskell.

Highlights of Saturday's wagering included:
* $11,114,341 on the 12th race (excluding multiple-race bets)
* $4,697,843 in win, place, and show pools in the 12th race
* $2,023,813 on the late Pick 4. It paid $102.80 on the minimum 50-cent bet.
* $1,105,296 on the late Pick 5. It paid $342.60 on the minimum 50-cent bet.
* $469,172 on the Rainbow 6. It paid $3,145.34 on the 20-cent only bet, with a carryover in the jackpot wager.

Attendance wasn't reported by the track, but the crowd appeared to be the largest in recent years, with the exception of several Florida Derby days. Besides the Pegasus, the afternoon included six others stakes races.

"We are extremely pleased with the inaugural running of the Pegasus World Cup," said Gulfstream general manager P.J. Campo. "From early morning until late afternoon, Gulfstream was electric.

"From the amenities, to our guests, to the blue carpet, to the incredible performance by Arrogate, the inaugural running of the Pegasus World Cup Invitational was incredible. We feel we introduced a number of new fans to the sport of Thoroughbred racing and the great entertainment and amenities at Gulfstream Park on Pegasus World Cup Day.

"We want to thank the fans who came out, the horsemen who support our program, and the incredible performances by our human and equine athletes."

While there has been some talk of moving the event to Santa Anita Park in 2017, The Stronach Group president Belinda Stronach said the goal will be to keep the event at Gulfstream next year. She was thrilled with the racing and the event, which included entertainment by Thomas Rhett and Trombone Shorty. Other celebrities attending included Vanessa Hudgens, Usher, Maria Menounos, Mike Ditka, and Gene Simmons.

"We've established such a good relationship with the South Florida community here," Stronach noted of efforts made by Gulfstream staff to establish sponsorships and relationships with local businesses and other partners. "This was our first one. We tried some new things and we'll learn from it. Next year will be even better. 

"There's been such a vibe in the Miami area. The whole city has been looking forward to this. We want to create an epic racing event and I think we saw a glimpse of that today."

The day featured a North American-record price for a general-admission ticket of $100. It was the first time Gulfstream has charged for general admission to the racing facility it opened in 2006.

Frank Angst contributed to this story.