08/07/2014 12:33PM

Gulfstream winter meet offers $11.25 million in stakes purses

Barbara D. Livingston
Constitution is shown here winning the 2014 Florida Derby. The $1 million Derby once again will be the headliner for the Gulfstream Park winter meet.

Gulfstream Park will offer a record $11.25 million in stakes purses during the 2014-15 championship meet, which opens Dec. 6. The $1 million Florida Derby again headlines the rich stakes schedule when closing the curtain on the winter meeting March 28.

Gulfstream will run 67 stakes races during the championship session, 37 of which are graded, including three Grade 3 handicaps previously run at Calder – the W.L. McKnight, La Prevoyante, and Fred W. Hooper. Ten of the stakes will feature purse increases from last winter. Two new stakes have been added to the program – the $75,000 H. Allen Jerkens, carded at two miles on turf Jan. 31, and the $75,000 Texas Glitter, at five furlongs on grass Feb. 7.

The meet will get off to a fast start on opening day with the popular Claiming Crown returning to Gulfstream for the third consecutive year.

The first 3-year-old stakes of the new year, formerly known as the Gulfstream Park Derby, now will be called the Mucho Macho Man when decided at a mile Jan. 3. The 3-year-old program also features the Grade 2 Holy Bull and Grade 3 Hutcheson on Jan. 24 as well as the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth and Grade 2 Swale on Feb. 21, all as prelude to Florida Derby Day.

The championship meet will include six ”Super Saturdays,” featuring five or more stakes each. There will be eight stakes, seven of them graded, on Florida Derby Day, including the Grade 2 Florida Oaks for 3-year-old fillies.

The Florida Derby is one of three Grade 1 races on the schedule, along with the Donn Handicap and Gulfstream Park Turf, both of which will be run Feb. 7.

“The stakes schedule for the championship meet shows Gulfstream Park’s commitment to Thoroughbred racing, horsemen throughout North America, and our fans,” said Gulfstream Park vice president of racing P.J. Campo. “We have increased the purses of 10 stakes, added two more, and tweaked some of the distances of our graded stakes to help horsemen as they prepare their horses for some of the major races later in the meet.”

Gulfstream president Tim Ritvo was equally enthused as he looked ahead to the winter session.

“Now that we’re running year-round and with no head-to-head conflict this winter, I look for us to build on the momentum from the summer by offering our fans bigger and better fields throughout the championship meeting and hopefully provide a springboard that will help make us the third-most popular signal out there behind New York and California next summer,” said Ritvo.