Horses taking aim on the Kentucky Derby typically hog the spotlight at Gulfstream Park, which has a rich history of producing Triple Crown racing stars.
But that’s about to change.
When the track kicks off its 77th meet on Saturday, much of the buildup will be directed toward a brand new race — the $12 million Pegasus World Cup on Jan. 28 — that could turn out to be a whopper.
“No one has ever put on a race like this in the history of the sport,” said track general manager P.J. Campo, adding that the 1 1/8-mile super race for older horses “will be historic.”
That’s not just hype.
With a $12 million purse, the Pegasus World Cup will be the richest horse race ever. The winner’s share: $7 million.
No wonder that horses such as California Chrome, winner of the 2014 Kentucky Derby, is expected to take part, along with an expected field of 11 other challengers with flashy résumés.
To put that hefty purse into context, consider:
▪ The Kentucky Derby carries a purse of $2 million.
▪ The Dubai World Cup shells out $10 million.
▪ The Breeders’ Cup Classic chimes in at $5 million.
Even the Florida Derby, Gulfstream’s signature event and a major stepping-stone to the Kentucky Derby, pays out just $1 million in total prize money to the top finishers.
By itself, the Pegasus World Cup constitutes nearly half of the $25 million in total stakes money Gulfstream has scheduled to pay out during the entire meet.
Once again, many of the nation’s top horses, jockeys and trainers will gather at the Hallandale Beach oval.
Todd Pletcher will be bidding to capture an unprecedented 14th consecutive training title. Jockey Javier Castellano has won the past six riding titles. Ken and Sarah Ramsey will vie for their sixth owner’s title in a row.
The highlight of Saturday’s Opening Day card is the $1 million Claiming Crown.
Post time for Saturday’s first race is noon.