West is east again.
At least in terms of horse racing at Gulfstream Park it is.
Gulfstream, which recently concluded a two-month meet as “Gulfstream Park West” at the track formerly known as Calder Race Course, returns east to its home turf in Hallandale Beach on Saturday for the start of its 76th anniversary meet.
“Because of the two-month break this year, you can feel a buzz in the building, not just from the racing world, but the outside world in general,” said P.J. Campo, Gulfstream’s general manager and vice president of racing.
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Campo will be working with the cream of the crop when he puts together a racing program that features many of the nation’s top horses, jockeys and trainers.
As always, the primary focus come January will be on the 3-year-old horses and the road to the Kentucky Derby. Gulfstream’s signature event for 3-year-olds – the Florida Derby – is scheduled for March 28.
But first things first.
Gulfstream will be operating in December, a time frame known familiarly for years as the Tropical meet before Calder gave up those dates as part of a lease agreement with Gulfstream.
To kick things off Saturday, Gulfstream is building its opening day 10-race card around the $1 million Claiming Crown, a series of races designed for racing’s blue-collar claimers. Only the 110 horses entered to line up for the eight Claiming Crown events are the best of the bunch.
Overall, Gulfstream has scheduled 67 stakes worth $11.25 million in purses for its “Championship Meet.”
In addition to the $1 million Florida Derby, other top stakes include the $500,000 Donn Handicap on Feb. 7, $1.1 million Sunshine Millions Day on Jan. 17, $400,000 Holy Bull Stakes on Jan. 24 and $400,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes on Feb. 21.
The track will also host the Eclipse Awards on Jan. 17.
Returning to defend their jockey and training titles, respectively, will be Javier Castellano and Todd Pletcher. Pletcher will be seeking his unprecedented 12th consecutive training title at Gulfstream. Castellano has won the track’s riding title each of the previous three meets.
Also returning: Gulfstream’s popular “Breakfast at Gulfstream” program, which allows fans to watch morning workouts, meet trainers and jockeys, and take a tour of the barn area. A $10 all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet is also available. The first “Breakfast at Gulfstream” program will be held Saturday from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m.
Post time for Saturday’s first race is 12:35 p.m.
“We believe this Championship Meet will be very memorable,” Campo said.