$1 Million Claiming Crown Highlights 10-Race Program
Breakfast at Gulfstream Set for Saturday 7-10 a.m.
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL â€“ The Thoroughbred sportâ€™s most celebrated jockeys, trainers and horses have returned to Gulfstream Park for Saturdayâ€™s Opening Day of the 2014-2015 Championship Meet
The 76th anniversary meet at the historic Hallandale Beach racetrack will be kicked off with a 10-race card, highlighted by the 16th edition of the Claiming Crown, which drew 110 entries for eight stakes worth a total of $1 million in purses. A total of 142 horses were entered for Saturdayâ€™s program, setting the tone for a meet with a long history of offering handicappers and bettors full quality fields and lucrative wagering opportunities.
â€œOnce again, we hope to provide our fans, who truly drive our industry, with first-class customer service, life-changing wagering opportunities, and full fields every day while building on our partnership with our horsemen,â€ said Gulfstream Park President and The Stronach Group's Chief Operating Officer Tim Ritvo.
The popular Breakfast at Gulfstream will return this season, starting with Opening Day 7-10 a.m. in the Tiki area. Fans will have the chance to watch morning workouts, meet trainers, jockeys and special guests, and take a tour of the barn area. A $10 all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet is available.
A record stakes schedule will feature 67 stakes, 37 graded, worth $11.25 million in purses. The $1 million Besilu Stables Florida Derby (G1), Gulfstream Parkâ€™s signature event, will be featured on a March 28 program that will offer eight stakes (seven graded). The Florida Derby, which was inaugurated in 1952, has produced the winners of 57 Triple Crown events.
Last yearâ€™s Florida Derby Weekend generated wagering records. A total of $26.8 million was wagered on the Florida Derby Day program, eclipsing the 2013 record of $24.6 million and representing an 8.96 percent increase. In addition, the $36.469 million wagered during the two-day Florida Derby Weekend broke the 2004 record of $36.064 million.
The 1 1/8-mile Florida Derby will be supported by a full menu of stakes for 3-year-olds, including the $100,000 Mucho Macho Man (formerly Gulfstream Park Derby) on Jan. 3, $400,000 Holy Bull (G2) on Jan. 24 and the $400,000 Fountain of Youth (G2) on Feb. 21. The $100,000 Spectacular Bid (Jan. 3), the $150,000 Hutcheson (G3) on Jan. 24 and the $200,000 Swale (G2) on March 28 will provide sprinting opportunities for sophomores.
The $500,000 Donn Handicap (G1), the first early-season major event for older horses in the country, will highlight a six-stakes program on Feb. 7, co-featured by the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (G1).
The Sunshine Millions program on Jan. 17 will offer five stakes for Florida-bred horses worth $1.1 million in purses, including the $350,000 Classic won last year by 2013 Breedersâ€™ Cup Classic (G1) champion Mucho Macho Man.
The 44th annual Eclipse Awards will follow the Sunshine Millions that evening, when the 2014 Horse of the Year and divisional champions will be announced and honored. Gulfstreamâ€™s Sport of Kings facility will host Thoroughbred racingâ€™s version of the Academy Awards for the third consecutive year.
â€œWe are very excited about the Championship Meet. Starting with Saturday's $1 million Claiming Crown, Gulfstream will be the home of world-class horses, Hall of Fame trainers and jockeys, and 67 stakes races worth $11.25 million in purses,â€ Ritvo said. â€œAlong with our world-class racing, we'll also play host to the 44th annual Eclipse Awards Saturday, Jan. 17 and Fasig-Tipton's world-renowned Selected 2-year-olds-in-training sale.â€
The Fasig-Tipton Selected 2-year-olds in training sale will be held at Gulfstream Park for the first time on Wednesday, March 4.
Trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey Javier Castellano have returned to Gulfstream Park for the Championship Meet to defend their respective titles. Pletcher will seek his unprecedented 12th straight training title after. Castellano will seek his fourth straight riding title and 100-wins-plus season. Both Pletcher, who saddled 68 winners (11 in stakes) last season, and Castellano, who rode a record 132 winners (15 in stakes) last season, are reigning Eclipse Award titlists.
The 20-cent Rainbow 6, which has produced life-changing payoffs the past few racing seasons, will continue to highlight Gulfstreamâ€™s menu of multi-race and exotic wagers. The innovative Rainbow 6, which requires a bettor to be the only one holding a ticket with the winners of the last six races on the program in order to collect the jackpot, yielded a $6,678,939.12 jackpot in May to set a North American payoff record for Pick 6 wagers.
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