11/28/2012 5:22PM

Gulfstream Park: Claiming Crown highlights early opening day

Barbara D. Livingston
King David and King Kreesa, one-two in the Grade 1 Jamaica at Belmont Park in October, are rematched in the $125,000 Claiming Crown Emerald

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Early is better.

That’s what Gulfstream Park officials are hoping when they launch the 2012-13 season on Saturday, Dec. 1, the earliest opening in track history.

If results from the 2011-12 meet are any indication, the early kickoff should again prove a huge success. Gulfstream pushed its traditional Jan. 3 opening back a month last year and was rewarded with a banner meeting that saw total ontrack handle eclipse $50 million for the first time since the new facility opened in 2005 and total all-sources handle gain nearly $80 million, or 13 percent, from the previous year.

Saturday’s opening-day program was designed to get the campaign off to a flying start, with Gulfstream Park playing host to the popular Claiming Crown series for the first time. As a result, the opening-day program will include seven stakes races, topped by the $200,000 Jewel at 1 1/8 miles on the main track and the $125,000 Emerald over the turf, which features a rematch between King David and King Kreesa, the one-two finishers earlier this fall in the Grade 1 Jamaica at Belmont.

[CLAIMING CROWN: Get PPs, watch Saturday's Gulfstream card live]

The Claiming Crown is simply the warm-up for what lies ahead at Gulfstream this winter. After offering just two graded stakes in December, the Grade 3 Sugar Swirl and the Grade 3 Mr. Prospector, the meet really gets rolling New Year’s Day with the Gulfstream Park Derby, the first major 3-year-old test of a season that will again be highlighted by the Grade 1 Florida Derby on March 30.

Gulfstream also will play host for the first time this winter to the Eclipse Awards program, which will begin shortly after the conclusion of the Florida Sunshine Millions program on Jan. 19.

“We’re ecstatic to play host to the Claiming Crown on our opening day,” Gulfstream president Tim Ritvo said. “Horses competing in the claiming ranks are many of the toughest in the world. They’re game and they build loyal followings within the Thoroughbred community. I think this is a great opportunity for Gulfstream to help showcase these horses. It’s also a great way to kick off what we believe will be a memorable winter meeting.”

As expected, the seven Claiming Crown races all drew large fields. The Jewel lured a dozen horses, including Private Tale, who finished fourth in the Grade 3 Bold Ruler Handicap in his last start, and the Grade 1 stakes winner Homeboykris.

The best race on the card, however, is the Emerald, which attracted a full field of 14 plus four also-eligibles. Besides King David and King Kressa, the field includes stakes-caliber types such as Nikki’s Sandcastle and Major Marvel.

Kevin Smith More than 1 year ago
Unfortuantely there are no longer enough diehard horse racing fans to revive the sport. We are gonna need the shops, restaurants and casinos to keep the sport alive....It pains me, but this is going to be the future of horse racing.
mikey More than 1 year ago
Great jess is gone now i will not hear her voice.Now RonNic is next.The last winner he had was Holy Bull.He get's the name's all wrong.He must work real cheap.
PeterG More than 1 year ago
Why did Jessica Pacheco get fired? America needs some answers. I bet Ron Nicoletti got her fired. Those two didn't get along I heard. https://twitter.com/JessicaRPacheco
Ian GW More than 1 year ago
I love Gulfstream. Number "1" in my book. Other venues could learn from them.
Mike More than 1 year ago
Gulfstream has full fields, great weather, and prime racing dates. What they lack is a main track with a realistic configuration (check out the winning % of the inside posts at 1 1/16 and 1 1/8th miles) and a turf course with a functioning timer. Typical of a Stronach property, the true racing fan is very low on the priority list. The old Gulfstream had class,this one feels like a Super Target.
Ken Courtright More than 1 year ago
I agree Gulfstream is one of my favorite tracks, Keeneland is the other, the casino gives my wife something to do when I'm playing the horses...
John Flynn More than 1 year ago
Gulfstream Park Lost its Beauty. It is now a Racino with shops that do not have any business.The front of the Grandstand does not accommodate many people - and is filled with mostly smokers. Also, the majority of bettors do not know what the Claiming Crown Series is!!! The series became popular when Julie Krone won on "Debonair Joe" at Canterbury Park. Calder still has Beauty. But, the 3rd floor needs a redo.
Keith Strouhal More than 1 year ago
and not to mention making sure the Breeders Cup never comes back to Florida :(
victor More than 1 year ago
i wish them well. I am just sad how they riuned one of the best tracks in the country to attend to make way for all the high end shops, and their casino.
Steve Morehouse More than 1 year ago
I agree
Guy More than 1 year ago
Plus the outdoor seating is tight, expensive and the view is not good. You can thank Frank Stronach for destroying Gulfstream. And how is this good for racing?
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Anyone who remembers the old layout will agree. Progress, right?
mikey More than 1 year ago
This place is nothing but an OTB that has live racing.