Dec 02, 2011
AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD
By: JOE GIRARDI
Gulfstream Park gets their 2011-2012 meeting underway on December 3rd, over a month earlier than their normal early January opening. Opening for the first time in December in its 69-year history, Gulfstream’s opening day will include the 30th running of the $100,000 Spectacular Bid. The six furlong event, for 2-year-old colts, will be one of 10 races carded on the afternoon, including four on the turf. First race post time is 12:35 p.m. Parking and admission is always free. Saturday’s opening day festivities kick off with the return of Breakfast at Gulfstream from 7-10 a.m. Silks opens at 11 a.m. Doors to Ralph Pagano’s Ten Palms American Kitchen and Stone Crab Parlor will open at 11 a.m.
Gulfstream’s championship season will include 53 stakes races with 33 of them graded stakes, worth more than $9 million. The total purses for the meeting will be in excess of $30 million. The first graded stakes of the meeting will be run on 12/10/11 with the Grade III Sugar Swirl for fillies and mares three years old and upward run over six furlongs and will carry a purse of $100k. On 12/31/11, Gulfstream closes out the year with the Grade III Mr. Prospector, a race for three years old and upward run over six furlongs with a purse of $100k. On the following day, New Years Day, they will host two stakes. The inaugural running of the $100,000 Gulfstream Park Derby, for three year olds, run over 1 and 1/16th miles, this race however is not graded. The Grade III Old Hat for three year old fillies over six furlongs with a $100k purse will also be run that day.
The Florida Sunshine Millions will be run on January 28th, and this year will be run entirely at Gulfstream. Six races for Florida-breds will be worth $1.45 million. The following day on January 29th the road to the Triple Crown begins with the Grade III Holy Bull for three year olds at one mile with a purse of $400k. The Grade II Forward Gal for three year old fillies will also be run that day at seven furlongs with a purse of $200k.
The second biggest day of the meeting will come on February 11th when Gulfstream hosts the Donn Handicap for four year olds and upward at 1 and 1/8th miles with a purse of $500k. This race has a big impact on the handicap division and usually attracts the top handicap horses in the country. On the same day the Grade I Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap will also be run as a Grade I, over the turf for four years old and upward over 1 and 1/8th miles with a purse of $300k. The three year olds also get in on the action that day with the Grade II Hutcheson, run at seven furlongs with a purse of $150k. This race attracts the top three year old sprinters or those who are not ready to go a distance of ground.
The Fountain of Youth, a prep for the Florida Derby will be run on February 26th, just over a month before the Florida Derby on March 31st. The Grade I Florida Derby will be run over 1 and 1/8th miles and will carry a purse of $1 million dollars. Always a key prep on the road to the Derby you can expect to see the top three year olds in South Florida again this season. There will be six other stakes races on that day with five of them graded. It is definitely a day to mark on your calendar.
Closing day comes earlier this year with the early start, and the meeting ends on April 8th, with the Wait A While stakes, a small $60k stake race for three year olds and upward run over 1 and 1/16th miles on the turf.
Last year’s top jockey was Paco Lopez who scored with 83 horses, 19 more than runner-up John Velazquez and 24 more than Javier Castellano. It should be interesting to see how this years’ title plays out as most of the jockeys should be here until the end because of the early ending instead of leaving for New York and Kentucky. Orlando Bocachica, who had a good meeting with 28 wins, 30 seconds, and 38 thirds and rode plenty of longshots to victory should be given a look especially with a horse that is double digits in odds.
Todd Pletcher, easily won the trainers title with 48 wins, 17 more than second place finisher Nick Canani. His win percentage was a solid 27% while Canani had an unbelievable 34% wins. Wesley Ward, 18 wins and Christophe Clement, 15 wins, had solid win percentages of 21% and 25% respectively. Peter Walder and Wayne Catalano also had win percentages over the 20% mark and should be followed at the upcoming meeting.
For more information you can go to www. Gulfstreampark.com. Good luck!
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