Horse racing picks up speed at Gulfstream

Full fields of horses mean more possibilities for bettors, and that has helped bring more action at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach.
Full fields of horses mean more possibilities for bettors, and that has helped bring more action at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach. Gulfstream Park/Courtesy

Gulfstream Park caps off a winter racing season Saturday with the Florida Derby, and record wagering. The amount bet on horse racing at the Hallandale Beach track has grown from $900 million in 2013 to $1.174 billion in 2014 to $1.338 billion for 2015 — with the amounts bet so far in 2016 surpassing last year’s numbers by 18 percent.

“You walk around here on a Saturday and you see all kinds of people, not just hard-core bettors,” Gulfstream GM P.J. Campo says. “You see young people, even families, having a good experience.”

The racing handle especially grew 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. But horse racing fans notice that Gulfstream offers fields of nine or 10 horses, while many other venues offer five or six. More horses equals more possibilities equals more gambling action. The nearby casino and mall, with restaurant-bars such as Yard House, also attract people who might take a casual interest in horse racing, Campo said.

Last Saturday showed another example of Gulfstream’s growth, when a total of $10,782,375 was wagered during a mandatory payout of the track’s Rainbow 6. That was part of $25.9 million overall bet on the program and a Gulfstream handle record for a single day other than Florida Derby Day. And the derby will be huge on Saturday with two undefeated horses, Mohaymen and Nyquist, squaring off.

Florida Derby events include Breakfast at Gulfstream at 7 a.m., a BBQ buffet with coffee and soda for $50 at the Sport of Kings Lounge, a buffet featuring a fresh Florida stone crab bar in Ten Palms Turf Club ($275 and up) and a hat contest after the call to post for the eighth race. There will be prizes of $100 (girls 2-12), $150 (girls 13-17) and $750 (women 18-up).

Karaoke and classic rock

There’s dueling entertainment at Hialeah Park Saturday night. A karaoke competition with a prize of $500 and a South Beach hotel stay starts at 7 p.m. in the second-floor Champions Simulcast Center & Sports Bar. Hosts from Sports Talk 790 AM The Ticket will be the emcees, with the competition being part of an NCAA Final Four watch party.

And at 9 p.m. on the outdoor Fountain Terrace, Viva, a classic rock cover band performs songs by Frankie Valli, the Beach Boys, the Beatles and others. DJ El Russo opens the show at 8 p.m.

Hard Rock showdown

The World Poker Tour Hard Rock Poker Showdown’s first event began Thursday and players can still enter at 11 a.m. or 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Entry is $350 for the $500,000 guarantee event, the first of 30 at the card room.

The main event begins April 15, carries at $2 million guarantee and costs $3,500 to enter. This is the one that is taped by the World Poker Tour and shown on Fox Sports Net a few months later, with Mike Sexton providing the commentary. A variety of satellite events, which cost much less than the regular $3,500 entry, are available.

Get more info at SHRPO.com.

This weekend

▪ Casino Miami gives away a Chevy Impala at 11 p.m. Sunday and on April 10. Free play drawings run from 2-10 p.m.

▪ Calder Casino “BinGlo” sessions run at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. and prizes total about $10,000. Slot players must earn 50 points to get their pack of Bingo cards.

▪ Seminole Classic, the bingo hall south of the Seminole Hard Rock, has big cash giveaways this weekend. Three patrons will be electronically selected every 30 minutes from 5 to 10 p.m. Friday to receive $500 to $5,000. Any unclaimed prizes will be given away at 11 p.m. Then one winner will be picked every 20 minutes from 3 to 10 p.m. Saturday to receive $1,000 to $25,000, with, again, all unclaimed prizes piled into a big stack for an 11 p.m. drawing.

▪ It’s Hard Rockin’ Sevens again at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood. One player will be selected every seven minutes from noon to 8 p.m. to win $777 free play.

▪ The Casino @ Dania Beach hosts two free concerts at Frost Park, just west of the property. Survivor plays at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Good Vibrations, a Beach Boys tribute group, is at 4 p.m. Sunday.

Get daily gambling news at SouthFloridaGambling.com