04/09/2013 4:16PM

Gulfstream Park sets record for handle

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Buoyed by a record-setting Florida Derby Day card and a closing-day Rainbow 6 pool in excess of $7 million, Gulfstream Park once again set marks for both total and ontrack handle during the recently concluded 2012-13 meet.

All-sources handle during the four-month session, which began Dec. 1 and ended last Friday, was a record $769.4 million, according to a spokesperson for the track, up 13 percent from the $679.0 million wagered the previous season. Ontrack handle grew from $50.6 million to $63.1 million, up a whopping 24.5 percent. The 2012-13 meet consisted of 90 racing days, three more than the previous year.

Average daily handle for the meet was a record $8.55 million, up 9.6 percent compared to average daily handle of $7.80 million during the 2011-12 meet.

“We’re thankful to our fans and the horsemen for making our 2012-2013 meet such a success,” Gulfstream Park president Tim Ritvo said. “Our guests continue to provide us with meaningful feedback on everything from our facility to food and beverage to the racing program. They are invaluable to our continued success and are the economic engine that drives the sport.”

Gulfstream is scheduled to reopen July 1, when it would begin running in competition with Calder on some days. Both Calder and Gulfstream were granted year-round racing dates last month.

Victories by Orb in Gulfstream’s two signature 3-year-old races, the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth and Grade 1 Florida Derby, highlighted the session, which began with the Claiming Crown series. Orb will go on to Churchill Downs as one of the favorites in the Kentucky Derby, along with Itsmyluckyday, winner of the Grade 3 Holy Bull and runner-up in the Florida Derby.

The undefeated Verrazano, who’ll go to Kentucky as the Derby favorite, launched his career here in spectacular fashion with an easy maiden win on New Year’s Day and an even more impressive allowance victory four weeks later. Those victories were two of the 52 winners perennial leader Todd Pletcher sent out en route to notching his 10th consecutive Gulfstream Park training title.

The Pletcher-trained Graydar and Point of Entry, who like Orb is trained by Shug McGaughey, won the meet’s two other Grade 1 races. Graydar won the Donn Handicap and Point of Entry defeated Animal Kingdom to win the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap.

With three victories on closing day, Javier Castellano reached the century mark, his 100 winners during the session making him leading rider for the second year in a row. Castellano was pushed along for much of the meet by Joel Rosario, who rode regularly at Gulfstream for the first time. Rosario ended the season with 89 victories, easily second best in the standings.

Ken and Sarah Ramsey ran away with the owners title with 43 wins.

– additional reporting by Matt Hegarty