The Track by the Sea!
Gulfstream Park opened on Feb. 1, 1939, attracting a crowd of 18,000 that wagered $224,287 for the first of the four days of racing. After being closed for four years, James Donn Sr. took over the track and reopened for a 20-day meeting in 1944, followed by a 40-day stand in 1945 that yielded daily averages of 10,699 in attendance and $714,801 in handle. Thoroughbred racing continued to flourish and, in 1952, the Florida Derby was inaugurated. The following year, the Kentucky Derby prep became the first stakes in Florida to boast a $100,000 purse. Dark Star, who finished 13th behind victorious Money Broker, went on to become the first of 21 Florida Derby starters to win the Kentucky Derby.
The quality of racing at Gulfstream Park was evident in the world records being equaled and set at Gulfstream. Swaps posted a then-record clocking of 1:39 2/5 for a mile and 70 yards while carrying 130 pounds in 1956. Gen. Duke equaled the world record of 1:46 4/5 for 1 1/8 miles while upsetting Bold Ruler in the 1957 Florida Derby.
The Florida Derby’s reputation as the most prolific prep for the spring classics was only strengthened by the 2013 victory by Orb, who went on to victory in Kentucky to become the 57th participant to win a Triple Crown event.
Gulfstream Park has undergone changes during its 75 years, but its history of excellence has endured and continues to grow to this day.