Gulfstream’s 2011 Tune: They’ll Be Some Changes Made

by Greg Melikov

posted on September 18, 2010 in General Discussion, News | No Comments >>

Gulfstream ParkBuoyed by increased wagering last season and steadily climbing casino revenue during the year, Gulfstream Park decided to hike purses for 3-year-old stakes in 2011.

The 60th Florida Derby was bumped up $250,000 back to $1 million and scheduled nearly two weeks closer to the Kentucky Derby. The Grade 1 at 1 1/8 miles will be staged on a Sunday for the first time – April 3.

Seven winners in the past 15 years were most competitive in the Run for the Roses. Four won at Churchill Downs: Thunder Gulch, ’95; Monarchos, ’01; Barbaro, ’05; and Big Brown, ’08. Three finished second: Captain Bodgit, ’97, Empire Maker, ’03; and Ice Box, ’10.

Two major preps for the South Florida track’s headliner also are being increased to $400,000 each: the Grade 3 Holy Bull at a mile on Jan. 29, up $250,000; and the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth at 1 1/8 miles on Feb. 26, up $150,000.

In addition, all three races are part of the new “Preakness 5.5” that features stakes at three tracks owned by MI Developments Inc. Up to $5.5 million in bonus money will go to winner of the Preakness on May 21. The top bonus would be shared by the winning owner ($5 million) and trainer ($500,000).

To qualify for the Preakness 5.5 at Gulfstream, a sophomore must capture either the Holy Bull or Fountain of Youth, and then win the Preakness.

“This increase in Gulfstream’s stakes purses as well as a nearly 15 percent increase of our overnight purses is another sign of our commitment to having the best racing in the country,” explained general manager Steve Calabro. “Gulfstream continues to be the winter home of horses that compete in the Triple Crown, Breeders’ Cup and major races throughout the year.”

Gulfstream enjoyed a lucrative ’10, as the total pari-mutuel handle rose 4.2 percent despite cold and rainy weather that forced 42 races off the turf, compared to only a dozen in ’09.

An extremely strong Florida Derby Day last March 20 saw substantial on-track gains of 24 percent from the previous year.

Climbing casino revenue also has helped boost purses in seven other stakes, including major races for 3-year-old fillies. The seven-furlong Grade 2 Forward Gal on Jan. 29 will be worth $200,000, while the one-mile Grade 2 Davona Dale on Feb. 26 is valued at $250,000.  The Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks at 1 1/8 miles on April 2 is worth $300,000.

Income from the casino’s 846 slot machines rose significantly in July and August over last year. July totals were $4.1 million in net revenue compared with $3.3 million a year ago. In August, net revenue of $3.6 million was $400,000 higher than last year.

Next year’s graded stakes will number 32 during the 69th meeting, one less than last year. The 42 stakes are valued at about $7.4 million, continuing the steady decline in total purse money during the 21st Century.

Forty-five stakes last year were worth nearly $8 million. In ’08, a record 48 stakes were valued at $8.5 million. The previous year 45 stakes were worth more than $9.2 million.