08/11/2016 11:36AM

Florida Derby, Pegasus World Cup highlight Gulfstream stakes schedule for championship meet

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The $1 million Florida Derby and the inaugural running of the $12 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational will highlight a record stakes schedule for the 2016-17 Gulfstream Park championship session, which opens Dec. 3.

The Florida Derby is the traditional marquee event of the Gulfstream stakes program but will be dwarfed from a monetary standpoint this winter by the uniquely designed Pegasus World Cup, which will run Jan. 28 along with the $400,000 Poseidon and three other graded stakes. The Pegasus and the Poseidon will be run at 1 1/8 miles and are for 3-year-olds and up. The Pegasus World Cup replaces the Donn Handicap on this year’s schedule.

The Grade 1 Florida Derby, won this past spring by Nyquist as a steppingstone to his victory in the Kentucky Derby, is one of nine stakes, six of them graded, to be run on closing day, April 1. The outstanding card also will feature a trio of Grade 2 races: the Gulfstream Park Oaks, Honey Fox, and Pan American.

The Florida Derby once again completes a rich series of stakes for 3-year-olds that begins with the $100,000 Mucho Macho Man on Jan. 7 and includes the Grade 2 Holy Bull (Feb. 4) and Grade 2 Fountain of Youth (March 4).

The 15th edition of the Sunshine Millions, consisting of five stakes for Florida-breds topped by the $250,000 Sunshine Millions Classic, will be run Jan. 21 as a prelude to the Eclipse Awards ceremony, which will be hosted by Gulfstream for a fifth consecutive year that evening.

The popular Claiming Crown will kick off the championship meet with nine stakes worth $1.16 million on Dec. 3.

“We’re excited to implement this new idea as part of our regular stakes schedule,” Tim Ritvo, chief operating officer for The Stronach Group and president of Gulfstream Park, said of the Pegasus. “The trajectory for Gulfstream Park has been like a rocket ship over the last few years, and the championship meet continues to soar while continuing to offer more opportunities and better racing for our horsemen. Frank [Stronach] didn’t want to be disruptive either to our own schedule or the industry as a whole when slotting the Pegasus into the stakes program this winter, while at the same time continuing with our branding of being able to offer big-event days every couple of weeks throughout the championship meet.”