10/06/2017 5:14PM

Gulfstream posts spring and summer meet handle gains

Lauren King/Coglianese Photos
Curlin's Approval won the Grade 2 Princess Rooney in one of the highlights of the Gulfstream summer session.

MIAMI – The popularity of Gulfstream Park’s year-round racing program continues to grow, especially at the mutuel windows.

Total handle for the combined spring and summer meetings, encompassing 111 racing days from April 4 to Oct. 1, was $603 million, an increase of $46.9 million over the corresponding period in 2016 despite five fewer racing dates. The daily average handle of $5.44 million was an increase of nearly $640,000 daily over the previous year.

Those figures represent the third consecutive year total and average handle has increased during the spring-summer meets. Total handle in 2015 was $490 million.

“It’s clear that Thoroughbred racing in Florida is being revitalized at Gulfstream Park by not only the Stronach Group, but by the support of horsemen throughout North America and our great racing fans,” said P.J. Campo, vice president of racing for the Stronach Group.

Campo said that Gulfstream is now the third-most watched and wagered upon signal during the summer behind only New York and California.

Among the highlights of the summer session were victories by Curlin’s Approval in the Grade 2 Princess Rooney and Imperial Hint in the Grade 3 Smile Sprint. Both events are designated Breeders’ Cup Challenge races and both Curlin’s Approval (Filly and Mare Sprint) and Imperial Hint (Sprint) are Breeders’ Cup bound.

Jockey Tyler Gaffalione, the leading rider in North America by victories, made Gulfstream Park his home base this spring and summer, sweeping both riding titles.

Todd Pletcher left a string of his potent stable behind at the conclusion of the championship meeting, and ran away with his first spring training title. Pletcher said recently that he plans to keep horses in south Florida on a year-round basis in 2018. 

“While we have done a lot these past three years, there’s still much to do and more to grow,” said Campo, referring to the summer program. “We believe this is only the beginning. More horsemen have spoken to us about remaining in south Florida year round or keeping a part of their stable either at Gulfstream or the training center at Palm Meadows. We’re very excited about the future at Gulfstream Park.”

◗ The sole allowance race carded during the opening five days of the Gulfstream Park West meet was decided Thursday over a sloppy track and won by 6-5 favorite Zipping, who drew away to a 9 1/4-length victory for owner and trainer Roger Laurin. The 3-year-old homebred benefitted from a patient, ground-saving ride by his regular jockey Aby Medina and earned a career-best 96 Beyer Speed Figure.

◗ There will be live racing at Gulfstream Park West on Monday, a regularly scheduled dark day, to celebrate the Columbus Day holiday. Tuesday is the only dark day on the calendar here through Sunday, Oct. 15.