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.