04/09/2012 2:16PM

Gulfstream meet sees record handle

Barbara D. Livingston
Take Charge Indy wins the Florida Derby on a day that saw more than $26 million in all-sources handle.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Gulfstream Park closed the doors on a record-setting season Sunday with new marks set for ontrack and all-sources handle since the new facility opened in 2006.

The 2011-2012 Gulfstream meet began one month earlier than usual, on Dec. 3, and closed two weeks earlier than normal, on April 8, as a result of an agreement reached with Calder Race Course to realign racing dates on the south Florida circuit. As a result, Gulfstream ran 87 days this past season, as opposed to just 79 programs during the 2011 meet.

All-sources handle on the Gulfstream races totaled $691 million in 2011-2012, up $96 million over last year’s record of $595 million with the average all-sources handle of $7.8 million daily, an increase of 4 percent from $7.5 million in 2011.

Ontrack handle in 2011-2012 was $50.6 million, up more than 7 percent from last year’s record of $47 million.

The Gulfstream meet was highlighted by single-day records of $26.7 million in all-sources handle and $2.9 million in ontrack handle on March 31, Florida Derby day.

Good racing and good weather were major contributors to this year’s success. The track’s racing secretary, Dan Bork, was able to run a record 393 turf races during the meet, while the overall field size averaged 9.25 starters per race.

“We’re thankful our fans, both locally and globally, as well as our horsemen, embraced our racing product as well as our historic early opening,” said Gulfstream’s president and general manager Tim Ritvo.

Many of the top contenders for this year’s Kentucky Derby raced at Gulfstream Park this winter, including Union Rags, Hansen, Gemologist and Florida Derby winner Take Charge Indy. Grace Hall, who figures to be among the favorites in the Kentucky Oaks, proved an easy winner of the Florida Oaks.

Javier Castellano won his first Gulfstream Park riding title, setting a single-season record with 112 victories. He was followed by John Velazquez and Julien Leparoux. Todd Pletcher captured his ninth consecutive training title, easily distancing the field with 71 winners. Chad Brown finished second with 29 victories. Frank Calabrese was again leading owner with 32 wins, although the stable of Joyce Robsham had an incredible meeting, winning with 16 of 30 starters.

Luis Saez, the defending Calder and Tropical at Calder riding champion, closed out the meet in high style, winning five races on Saturday’s card.