In honor of a couple new events, Gulfstream Park announced this week that their stakes schedule had undergone some changes for the 2012-2013 meet which begins December 1. More stakes races have been added this year for a record 61 overall, 33 of them graded, worth $10.1 million. This year, the stakes action kicks off on opening day with the 14th running of the Claiming Crown, an event being held at Gulfstream for the very first time. The Claiming Crown consists of 7 stakes races worth a total of $850,000 designed to honor the sport’s bread-and-butter runners, the claimers. Another event Gulfstream will play host to is this year’s annual Eclipse Awards. In honor of the sport’s biggest day, Gulfstream Park moved its Sunshine Millions series up from the last weekend in January to January 17 so that the series can serve as a prelude to the ceremonies later that evening.
New Year’s Day racing will also look a little different this year due to the inaugural running of the Sophomore Soiree. The card that day will feature four stakes races for 3-year olds, including the second running of the $100,000 Gulfstream Park Derby, a race won in its inaugural running by Reveron. Additionally, the G3 Holy Bull Stakes, carded for January 26, will be stretched out to a 1 1/16 mile from the flat mile at which it was run this past meet.
There is plenty of variety to be had with races available on the turf and on the dirt for horses of all ages and genders. The focus is still on the 3-year olds, of course, but most winter meets are since that is the time when the pretenders begin to be separated from the contenders. Everything culminates for the 3-year olds on March 30, also known as Florida Derby day. Last year’s Derby undercard was just as exciting as the Derby itself, so there will be plenty to look forward to that day.
I personally look forward to the Gulfstream meet every year, but this year’s meet looks like it will shape up to be one of the best yet. The large and varied stakes purses will prove lucrative for horsemen, which will continue to ensure that Gulfstream provides a competitive meet. The Claiming Crown and the Eclipse Awards add extra luster to an already star-studded and exciting affair. I am not a big advocate of change, but for once I am not going to argue. Even though the shuffling caused some divergence from the typical schedule, aside from some potential minor inconvenience, there are no drawbacks to this. The only problem I see in all of this is I am going to have a really hard time choosing a weekend to go down to Gulfstream! Last meet I said I would wait and go down on Florida Derby day, but the Eclipse Awards coupled with the Sunshine Millions Series are awfully enticing. Who knows? Maybe the “finance committee” will allow me to do both!