Gulfstream Galloping to Records as Racing Returns Saturday

Gulfstream Park launches what will likely be its most lucrative horse racing season ever Saturday, featuring its usual strong card of races and adding a unique endeavor: The $12 Million Pegasus World Cup on January 28.

The entry fee for each of the 12 horses in the race is $1 million. California Chrome, who won the 2014 Kentucky Derby and Preakness, is entered.

Gulfstream Park set a record for wagering last season. The Hallandale Beach track now draws 13 cents of every dollar bet nationwide on horse racing, and its racing is still booming – in a sport that otherwise has flat-at-best interest.

The total horse racing handle – the amount people bet either at the track or from other points via satellite — has remained at about $10 billion in the United States during each of the past five years. But Gulfstream’s portion has grown from $900 million in 2013 to $1.174 billion in 2014 to $1.338 billion in 2015.

And this year, the numbers are even higher. For example, Gulfstream Park set an all-time one-day handle record of $32.092 million April 2 on its Florida Derby program, highlighted by Nyquist's victory in the 65th running of the $1 million Xpressbet.com Florida Derby.

As horse racing was dying elsewhere in the United States, Gulfstream owner Frank Stronach in 2005 spent $171.5 million on a renovation. The casino added slots in 2006, and in 2010, a $1 billion outdoor mall, the Village, opened with 70 stores. Old-style horse racing fans hated him at first, but now he’s their hero. Heck, they almost forgive him for that monstrous Pegasus statue at the north entry.

Gulfstream president P.J. Campo calls the facility “a three-headed monster,” and the racing handle has grown significantly because the track went from a four-month meet to year-round racing, muscling out nearby Calder Race Course by paying higher purses and offering more incentives for trainers and jockeys.

This year, Gulfstream is peppering racing cards with giveaways. Saturday features a free wall calendar and microfiber cloth keychain. Gifts will be handed out at the North and South entry points beginning at noon, which is post time on opening day.

The other giveaways are from 1 to 3 p.m., and require purchase of a handicapper program, Daily Racing Form, or Ten Palms Buffet. Gulfstream officials note there is a limit on how many of each item is available.

  • December 10: Gulfstream Park Pegasus Ornament in velvet pouch.
  • January 1: Racing collage tote bag.
  • January 14: Musical bottle opener.
  • January 22: Pegasus picnic blanket.
  • February 4: Holy Bull long sleeved T-Shirt.
  • February 18: Ladies Day surprise.
  • February 25: Jockey Photo Tumbler. Gift with $10 minimum donation to PDJF. No other purchase required.
  • March 5: Oversized beach towel.
  • March 25: Florida Derby 2017 commemorative glass.
  • April 2: Retractable umbrella with sleeve.

The races will generally start at 12:35 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays.

Meanwhile, Gulfstream will hold a “Post It to Win It” Instagram contest. Shoppers are invited to take a selfie at any of the home stores, art galleries, or boutiques with an item they would like to win (such as an espresso maker, a tree full of ornaments, a new sofa). Participants must post the photo to Instagram by December 23, mention the store and use the hashtag #WinItAtGulfstream for a chance to win. One winner will be selected each week. Follow on Instagram @ShopGulfstream.

Follow Nick Sortal on Twitter: @NickSortal.

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