Constitution’s Besilu Stables Florida Derby Win Highlights Champions Meet
Track Records, Betting Records Set Tone for Spring/Summer Meet
Rainbow 6 Built Excitement and $5 Million Jackpot Heading into Spring/Summer Meet
Gulfstream, Palm Meadows Horses Continue to Make Headlines Around the Country
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – The 63rd running of the $1 million Besilu Stables Florida Derby (G1), won by undefeated Constitution after prevailing in a thrilling four-horse stretch showdown, punctuated a most memorable and successful 75th anniversary Thoroughbred season at Gulfstream Park.
The ultimate Triple Crown prep race on March 29 served as the grand finale of an extraordinary program that offered bettors eight stakes opportunities, including seven graded races, and generated all-time record handles. A total of $26.8 million was wagered on the Florida Derby Day program, eclipsing the 2013 record of $24.6 million and representing an 8.96 percent increase. In addition, the $36.469 million wagered during the two-day Florida Derby Weekend broke the 2004 record of $36.064 million.
The financial and aesthetic success of Gulfstream’s signature race rode the wave of momentum that continued to build throughout the 2013-2014 Champions Meet. Despite running 55 less races in December than the year before - despite running 35 less turf races from the previous year and increased market competition on weekends - Gulfstream's total live handle on track was $49.7 million and all-source handle on Gulfstream was $691 million.
"Considering we ran 55 less races than the year before, and 35 fewer on the turf, we're extremely pleased with the Champion's Meet," said Gulfstream Park President Tim Ritvo. "Our meet this year featured memorable performances by champion Groupie Doll in the final start of her career, Constitution, Wildcat Red, General a Rod and Cairo Prince while preparing for the Triple Crown, and In Tune and Mucho Macho Man.
"Gulfstream and Palm Meadows continue to be the winter homes and training centers of Thoroughbred champions and graded-stakes winners. Just this past weekend, horses who made their 3-year-old debuts at Gulfstream and wintered at Gulfstream or Palm Meadows included Wood Memorial (G1) winner Wicked Strong, Ashland (G1) winners Room Service and Rosalind, Bay Shore (G3) winner Coup de Grace, and Calder Derby winner Our Caravan.
"Our fans and guests once again supported our Champion's Meet and we can't thank them enough. The fans of Thoroughbred racing are the economic engine of our sport, and we were overwhelmed with their support of Florida Derby Weekend, the Claiming Crown and Eclipse Awards. Our fans continue to offer innovative and unique suggestions on how we can improve our sport and facility, and to that we are extremely grateful. We will continue our efforts to make Gulfstream Park the family-friendly entertainment destination that our Chairman Frank Stronach has always envisioned."
The Florida Derby, which has produced the winners of 57 Triple Crown events during its rich history, attracted the winners of Gulfstream’s three major preps: General a Rod, the winner of the $100,000 Gulfstream Derby on Jan. 1; Cairo Prince, who captured the $400,000 Miller Lite Holy Bull (G2) by 5 ¾ lengths on Jan. 25; and Wildcat Red, the winner of the $400,000 Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth (G2) on Feb. 22. Todd Pletcher-trained Constitution, who captured his first two career starts at the Champions Meet, was faced with making the jump from allowance to Grade 1 company and successfully bridged the class gap with a strong rail run to defeat Wildcat Red by a neck. General a Rod finished third, while Cairo Prince finished fourth.
The Florida Derby was one of three Grade 1 events on the 71-race stakes schedule during the Champions Meet. The $500,000 Donn Handicap, the first major handicap for older horses on the national racing calendar, and the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap were co-featured on a multi-stakes program on Feb. 9. Will Take Charge, the 2013 champion 3-year-old trained by Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, was favored to win the 1 1/8-mile handicap, but the Bill Mott-trained Lea emerged as a blossoming handicap star with his second stakes score of the meeting in the track-record time of 1:46.86. One race later, Lochte pulled off a 39-1 upset in the Gulfstream Park Turf.
Earlier on the Donn Handicap undercard, two-time champion Groupie Doll set the tone for a very memorable day at the races. The atmosphere at Gulfstream became electric when the two-time Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) champion made a spectacular exit from racing in the $200,000 Hurricane Bertie (G3). After trailing the field by open lengths on the backstretch, the Buff Bradley-trained mare made a sweeping move on the turn and pulled away to victory by seven lengths to the vocal approval of the fans who had made her their 2-5 favorite.
Groupie Doll, who was subsequently bred to Tapit, was just one of several Gulfstream competitors to be honored at the Eclipse Awards Dinner, held for a second straight year at Gulfstream on Jan. 18. Jockey Javier Castellano, trainer Todd Pletcher and owners/breeders Ken and Sarah Ramsey, who were repeat titlists during Gulfstream’s 2013-2014 meeting, were all honored with Eclipse Awards in their respective categories.
Castellano, who captured a record 132 races during the Champions Meet to notch his third straight title and third straight 100-win season, and Pletcher , who comfortably claimed his unprecedented 11th straight Champions Meet title while saddling eight graded-stakes winners, teamed to win with Constitution in the Florida Derby, as well as scoring with In Tune in the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2), Onlyforyou in the Davona Dale (G2) and Forward Gal (G2), Micromanage in the Skip Away (G3), Sweet Whiskey in the Old Hat (G3) and Gala Award in the Palm Beach (G3). Pletcher also saddled 2013 Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice for a triumph in the $250,000 Gulfstream Park Handicap (G2) with John Velazquez. Castellano, who ride nine graded-stakes winners at the meeting, also won the Sabin (G2) aboard Devil’s Cave, the Hutcheson (G3) with Wildcat Red and the Canadian Turf (G3) with Reload.
The 2013-14 Champions Meet got into full swing with the eight-race $1 million Claiming Crown, which was hosted by Gulfstream for the second consecutive year. Nick Zito-trained Nevada Kid dominated the $200,000 Jewel. Popular sprinter Ribo Bobo took down the $110,000 Express and followed up with victories in the $150,000 Sunshine Millions Sprint and the $75,000 Caixa Eletronica.
Mucho Macho Man, the winner of the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita last November, was the headliner in the six-race $1.3 million Sunshine Millions program for Florida-bred horses on Jan. 18. The 6-year-old son of Macho Uno lived up to the hype with a spectacular 14-length romp in the Sunshine Millions Classic, a race the Kathy Ritvo-trained multiple-stakes winner won in 2012.
Although Social Inclusion didn’t have the opportunity to win a stakes during the Champions Meet, the Manny Azpurua-trained 3-year-old created a buzz with a dazzlingly debut victory by 7 ½ lengths on Feb. 22 and a 10-length allowance romp on March 12 in the track-record time of 1:40.97 for 1 1/16 miles.
The popular 20-cent Rainbow 6 also provided lots of interest and excitement throughout the Champions Meet. The multi-race wager was hit early in the meet three times, producing a $301, 933 payoff on Jan. 3, but went unsolved for 60 consecutive programs, producing a record carryover of approximately $5 million heading into the spring/summer meeting that begins on Friday.
Live Thoroughbred racing will continue at Gulfstream through the spring and summer on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday weekly schedule, in addition to a special Memorial Day Monday program.
GULFSTREAM PARK is a Stronach Group company, North America’s leading Thoroughbred racetrack owner/operator. The Stronach Group racetracks include Santa Anita Park, Gulfstream Park & Casino, Golden Gate Fields, Portland Meadows, Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course, home of the world-famous Preakness. The company owns and operates the Palm Meadows Training Center in Florida, and is one of North America's top race horse breeders through its award-winning Adena Springs operation. The Stronach Group is one of the world's largest suppliers of pari-mutuel wagering systems, technologies and services. Its companies include AmTote, a global leader in wagering technology; XpressBet, an Internet and telephone account wagering service; and Monarch Content Management, which acts as a simulcast purchase and sales agent of horseracing content for numerous North American racetracks and wagering outlets.The Stronach Group is also a major producer of televised horseracing programming through its HRTV cable and satellite network and is North America's premier supplier of virtual online horseracing games, as well as a leading producer of social media content for the horseracing industry. For more information contact David Joseph at [email protected] or call 954.457.6451.