The gap between the Triple Crown season the Breeders’ Cup does not necessarily result in a complete shutdown of marquee horse racing.
Although the sport’s glamour events, when horse racing transcends to the mainstream, are centered on the Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup, race tracks find attractive alternatives to maintain the interest of fans in the summer months.
Gulfstream Park has such an event with the “Summit of Speed.” In what has become an annual fixture on its summer racing calendar, Gulfstream will showcase five sprint stakes races Saturday.
“It’s become a big day for us,” Gulfstream general manager Bill Badgett said. “Our program on Summit of Speed Day has been incredibly strong and the events surrounding it have only grown over the past five years. We’re looking forward to a big day.”
The “Summit of Speed” races attract many of the top sprint horses in the country. Former “Summit of Speed” winners “Lost in the Fog,” “Orientate,” “Benny the Bull” and “Big Drama” won Eclipse Awards, symbolic of the nation’s best horses.
Two of the two stakes races — “Princess Rooney” and “Smile Sprint” — are each valued at $250,000. The winning horse in the “Princess Rooney” also qualifies for the Breeders’ Cup championship on Nov. 2. The sprint stakes races on the program will total $750,000.
The “Princess Rooney,” a seven-furlong race for fillies and mares, will feature seven entrants, including betting favorite and defending champion “Stormy Embrace.” In 24 career races, the 5-year-old mare has finished in the money 16 times, including eight wins.
“She’s just as good this year as she was last year,” said trainer Kathleen O’Connell. “She’s a model of consistency. She doesn’t have to be anywhere. She just has to have things unfold.”
“Proforma” is among the favorites in the six-furlong “Smile Sprint” for 3-year-olds and up. Although winless in two 2019 races, “Proforma” has finished in the money in 11 of 14 career starts.
“He’s just one of those horses that goes out there and gives you a big effort every time,” trainer Michael Stidham said.
The “Summit of Speed” began at Calder Race Track in 2000 and moved to Gulfstream in 2015.
Former Calder president Ken Dunn, who helped create the “Summit of Speed” model, noticed immediate attention when the event was inaugurated. The concept immediately caught the attention of racing fans as well as the sport’s top trainers
“We got national exposure,” Dunn said. “Even the first year, it did what we wanted to do – generate more excitement when there wasn’t any.”
Saturday’s event will feature 14 races with the first post time at 11:30 a.m. Post-time for “Princess Rooney” will be at 5:30 p.m. followed by “Smile Sprint,” scheduled for 6:02 p.m.