By Jim Freer and Barry Unterbrink
Gulfstream Park had record daily average all-sources handle of just under $10.0 million for its 2016-2017 championship meet that concluded April 2.
The previous average handle record for a race meet at Gulfstream was $9.49 million, set during its 2015-2016 championship meet.
Gulfstream reported on Wednesday that it had total handle (all-sources handle) of $867 million during its recent 87-day championship meet.
Gulfstream added that it had all-sources handle of $807 million for its 85-day championship meet in 2015-2016.
The Hallandale Beach. Fla., track did not report daily averages.
But some quick math shows that the averages were $9.97 million for 2016-2017 and $9.49 million for 2015-2016.
Measured by total handle, wagering on Gulfstream races was up 7.3% from the previous championship meet. On a daily average basis, Gulfstream handle was up 5.0%.
In its news release, Gulfstream did not provide breakdowns between live handle and off-track handle or of components.
Gulfstream did not provide data on field sizes or on race purses.
A review of Equibase charts by HorseRacingFLA.com shows that the average field size at Gulfstream fell from 9.1 horses per race in 2015-2016 to a still-strong 8.7 at the recent meet.
Apple-to-apple comparisons on Gulfstream purses are difficult partly because of the $12 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (Grade 1) at Gulfstream on Jan. 28.
All-sources handle is the total legal betting on a track’s races. In addition to live on-site handle, it includes bets from these sources: simulcasts at other pari-mutuels and Off-Track-Betting locations; Advance Deposit Wagering (ADW) via computers and phones; Nevada sports books; and designated offshore casinos and sports books.
Gulfstream’s handle increase was attributable largely to the success of its Saturdays with multiple graded stakes, as well as the Claiming Crown which it held on its opening day Dec. 3.
Most notable was Jan. 28 when Gulfstream had all-sources handle of $40,217,924 for a 12-race card topped by the first running of the Pegasus.
That was the most wagering for any day on races at Gulfstream, other than when it held the Breeders’ Cup in 1989, 1992 and 1999.
Arrogate won the Pegasus—sandwiching it between victories in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (Grade 1) and Dubai World Cup (Grade 1).
Officials of Gulfstream and its parent The Stronach Group are hoping that owner Juddmonte Farms will bring Arrogate back for the second running of the Pegasus on Jan. 27, 2018.
Stronach Group is adding $4 million to the Pegasus purse, making it $16 million. As in this year’s inaugural running, the twelve Pegasus stakeholders will each put up $1 million. In addition to race purses, they will receive percentages of Pegasus race handle and of revenue from merchandise sales.
“The Championship Meet was extraordinary for its mix of world-class racing, events and entertainment,” said P.J. Campo, general manager of Gulfstream and vice president of racing for The Stronach Group.
“From a record-setting Opening Day with the Claiming Crown to the Eclipse Awards to the first running of the Pegasus to the Florida Derby, Gulfstream was the center of the racing world,” Campo said.
He added: “We want to thank our fans for participating and continuing to inform us of ways we can serve them better. We also want to thank horsemen for supporting our program. While we continue to race through the summer, we’re already preparing and looking forward to another outstanding 2017-2018 Championship Meet that will feature the $16 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational , the Eclipse Awards and, for the first time ever, the Clasico Internacional del Caribe.”
Gulfstream began its meet-ending news release with the statement: “It was a winter to remember at Gulfstream Park.”
Indeed it was, considering the following:
*On April 1, Gulfstream had all-sources handle of $30,614,677 for 14 races on Florida Derby Day. That was Gulfstream’s third largest non-Breeders’ Cup handle—behind this year’s Pegasus day and $32,082,270 on April 2, 2016 when it had 14 races on Florida Derby day.
Always Dreaming won the 2017 Florida Derby (Grade 1) by five lengths over State of Honor. Gunnevera was another 1 1/2 lengths back in third place.
Always Dreaming’s win was the third in the last four runnings of the Florida Derby for trainer Todd Pletcher,
The winners of Gulfstream’s other two graded Triple Crown preps were Gunnevera in the Fountain of Youth (Grade 2) on March 4 and Irish War Cry in the Holy Bull (Grade 2) on Feb. 4.
Gunnevera, State of Honor, Always Dreaming and Irish War Cry all have more than enough qualifying points for berths in the Kentucky Derby (Grade 1) Presented by Yum Brands on May 6.
*Gulfstream’s growth in handle coincided with what Equibase found to be a first quarter 2016 to first quarter 2017 decline of 4.6% in average wagering per race day at U.S. thoroughbred racks.
Equibase’s Thoroughbred Industry Economic Indicators also showed that average field sizes fell 4.14 percent during the compared quarters, from 8.19 to 7.85. Gulfstream’s decline for its championship meet was 4.34%.
*Pletcher led trainers in wins, with 58, for the 14th straight Gulfstream championship meet.
Jorge Navarro had 40 wins, placing him second for the second straight year. Michael Maker was third with 28 wins, and Antonio Sano and Dale Romans tied for fourth place with 24.
Luis Saez rode 102 winners, giving him his first jockeys’ title at Gulfstream. Paco Lopez was second with 90 wins, followed by Tyler Gaffalione with 62 and five-time defending champion Javier Castellano with 58.
Ken and Sarah Ramsey had 22 winners, taking the owners for the fifth straight championship meet. Drawing Away Stable was second with 16 wins, followed by Monster Racing with 15.
*South Florida is facing drought conditions following a drier-than-usual winter.
How dry? HorseRacingFLA’s review of Equibase charts shows that Gulfstream had 474 races scheduled for turf in its 2016-2017 meet, and took only 19 of those races off that surface.
In 2015-2016, Gulfstream had 478 races scheduled for turf. It took 58 of those races off that surface for weather-related reasons.