Gulfstream Park will begin the 2017-2018 Championship Meet Dec. 2, an 89-date schedule highlighted by the $16 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1), the world's richest race; and the $1 million Xpressbet.com Florida Derby (G1), a premier steppingstone to the Triple Crown.
The elite Thoroughbred meeting, which will run through April 1, will begin Saturday with a program featuring the $1.1 million Claiming Crown. The second running of the Pegasus World Cup Jan. 27 and the 67th edition of the Florida Derby March 31 will headline a record stakes schedule of 94 stakes worth $28.6 million in purses.
The Pegasus World Cup, in which Arrogate dominated 11 rivals last year, including two-time Horse of the Year California Chrome , is on course to again host the highest-profile Thoroughbreds in North America. Gun Runner , the 2017 Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) victor, is scheduled to make the final start of his career in the Pegasus World Cup, where he could be joined by Collected, West Coast, War Story, and local hero Gunnevera, who rounded out the top 5 positions in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Del Mar Nov. 4. Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff (G1) winner Forever Unbridled also is being pointed toward a start against the boys in the 1 1/8-mile showcase that will receive a $4 million purse boost this year.
The 67th running of the Florida Derby figures to again have a significant impact on the Triple Crown campaign. Three of the past five Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) winners prepped with victories in Gulfstream's 1 1/8-mile stakes for 3-year-olds, including Always Dreaming and Nyquist , who won both races 2017 and 2016 respectively, and Orb who won both in 2013.
Several 2017 Triple Crown hopefuls will be stabled at Gulfstream Park and its satellite facilities, Palm Meadows in Palm Beach County; and Gulfstream Park West in Miami Gardens; including Chad Brown-trained Good Magic, the winner of the 2017 Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1), and Kiaran Mc Laughlin-trained Enticed, the winner of the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs Nov. 25. Trainer Todd Pletcher, who saddled Always Dreaming for victories in the Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby, also has many strong Florida Derby and Triple Crown prospects training at Palm Beach Downs, including Montauk, a son of Medaglia d'Oro who authored an impressive debut victory at Belmont Park in October.
Pletcher will seek an unprecedented 15th consecutive Championship Meet title, while jockey Luis Saez, who last year succeeded five-time defending champion Javier Castellano as the top Championship Meet rider, will be on a quest for a repeat.
The Championship Meet's 18 weekends will include 12 Super Saturdays featuring between three and 12 stakes.
The Claiming Crown will kick off the highly anticipated meet Saturday with nine stakes for former and current claiming horses, including the $200,000 Jewel. The Claiming Crown will be followed Dec. 9 by the $600,000 Clasico Internacional del Caribe, which will be contested for the first time outside the Caribbean and Latin America. The annual five-stakes event will be headlined by the $300,000 Clasico del Caribe, which has attracted Puerto Rico Triple Crown champion Justiciero.
The Pegasus World Cup will be supported by seven stakes worth a total of $1.25 million Jan. 27. The Who's Who of Thoroughbred Racing will gather in Gulfstream's Sport of Kings facility Jan. 25 for the 47th Eclipse Awards. Gulfstream will play host to the Pegasus World Cup Betting Championship Jan. 26-27 and the Clasico del Caribe Betting Challenge Dec. 9.
"The Stronach Group continues to reshape, reinvent, and reimagine the racing experience with exceptional facilities, exceptional dining, and world-class racing," said Bill Badgett, general manager of Gulfstream Park. "Not only are we excited with our racing product, which will feature Hall of Fame trainers and jockeys and many of the best horses in the world, but we're excited to show off our unique facility and we look forward to our fans and guests being part of our exceptional events. There's few things in sport that rival a Pegasus World Cup or Florida Derby. There has never been a Championship Meet packed with so many events or so much excitement. We're looking at a very special and memorable winter."
The Pegasus will be part of a robust program for older horses on the main track which will include the $100,000 Harlan's Holiday Stakes (G3) Dec. 16, the $100,000 Skip Away Stakes (G3) Jan. 13, the $125,000 Fred W. Hooper Stakes (G3) Jan. 27, $100,000 Hal's Hope Stakes (G3) Feb. 24, and the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Mile (G2) March 31.
The Florida Derby Day program will offer seven stakes, including four graded stakes in support of the grade 1 attraction. The Florida Derby tops Gulfstream's much-heralded 3-year-old program, which will include the $100,000 Mucho Macho Man Stakes Jan. 6, the $350,000 Holy Bull Stakes (G2), and $200,000 Swale Stakes (G2) Feb. 3, the $100,000 Hutcheson Stakes (G3) March 24, and the $400,000 Xpressbet.com Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) March 3.
Ralph Nicks-trained Caledonia Road, the winner of the 14 Hands Winery Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1), is at the top of the list of prospects for Gulfstream's program for 3-year-old fillies that includes the $75,000 Glitter Woman Jan. 6, the $200,000 Forward Gal Stakes (G2) Feb. 3, $200,000 Davona Dale Stakes (G2) March 3, and the $250,000 Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) March 31.
The $300,000 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (G1T) will be renewed Feb. 10, headlining an extensive program of turf stakes that also includes the $250,000 Pan American Stakes (G2T) and $250,000 Honey Fox Stakes (G2T) March 31, and $200,000 W. L. McKnight Handicap (G3T) Jan. 27.