A record crowd of more than 20,000 people jammed Gulfstream Park on Saturday to watch Orb defeat Itsmyluckyday in the 62nd Florida Derby among six other stakes races.
Gulfstream estimated 20,382 people in attendance based on program sales, refreshment sales and cars in parking lots — setting a record for the new facility that Gulfstream opened in 2006.
It estimated that attendance was 18,224 at last year’s Florida Derby — also on the last Saturday in March with weather similar to the mild temperatures and sun on Saturday.
Total betting on Gulfstream races was about $26.4 million, matching a 2006 record set on during last year’s Florida Derby, with the live handle approximately at $3.2 million, up from $3.0 million.
“Our racing is great, and the weather was ideal,” said a Gulfstream spokesman. “People like coming to Gulfstream Park for the racing”
Lines were long at some beer and food stands, according to fans along the rail near the finish line and in the Tiki bar area north of the finish line.
But most were patient on Gulfstream’s biggest day of its race meet.
“This is the busiest I’ve seen it here,” said Kevin Baker of Miramar, who was near the rail with friends in the Tiki bar area.
Lines were long at many tellers’ betting stations. Baxter, who comes to Gulfstream several times a month, uses betting machines and said those lines were not long.
“Most of the serious raving fans still miss the old Gulfstream,” he said. “But they seem to keep trying to make things better.”
Part of the wagering attraction on Saturday was the growing Pick 6 pool.
There was no single winner Saturday, and Gulfstream will have a carryover of $1,898,314 on Sunday on its Pick 6 where bettors must pick the winners of the last six races.
The bet is 10 cents only, with multiple horses permitted in each race. Gulfstream pays out the full Pick 6 pool only on days when there is just one winning ticket. On other days, 60 percent of the day’s new bets is divided among winning ticketholders and 40 percent is added to the carryover.
On Sunday, Gulfstream will have 11 races with first time of 1:05 p.m.
The feature 10th race is the $70,000 Secret Grace at one mile on turf for 3-year-old fillies.