By the time Take Charge Indy crossed the finish line in the 61st running of the Florida Derby, Gulfstream Park was well on its way to setting records in its state-of-the-art facility. And it was all witnessed by a national television audience…the largest audience of the day on the NBC Sports Network.
The historic Florida Derby, which has produced 21 Kentucky Derby winners, was a huge success Saturday, March 31. From 6 a.m. in the morning – when ABC affiliate WPLG did their first live broadcast of the morning from the track – to 10 p.m. and the final notes of a free concert in the walking ring, Gulfstream was the focus of the national racing world and the local community.
A record crowd of more than 18,000 people, some from as far away as California, Vancouver and Venezuela, came to Gulfstream to celebrate one of the world’s most important thoroughbred races. And while the popular favorite Union Rags didn’t win the race, the day, as well as the entire week, was a huge success.
Not only was the crowd of more than 18,000 the largest on any day since Gulfstream’s new facility was constructed in 2006, but Gulfstream set a new standard for total handle on a single day with $24.6 million wagered on its 13 races, including a record $2.98 million on track.
“The energy and excitement in our facility was extraordinary,” said Gulfstream President and General Manager Timothy Ritvo. “The weather was perfect, the quality of racing was unparalleled, our jockeys and horses all returned safely, and our fans had a wonderful experience.
“Record-setting days like (March 31) celebrate the vision of our Chairman, Mr. Frank Stronach.” Gulfstream’s legacy of giving extended throughout Florida Derby with several events that raised money for the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund (pdjf.org) and the Gulfstream Park Thoroughbred After-Care Program (gpaftercare.com).
The March 27 Florida Derby Golf Tournament, held at the Westin Diplomat Golf Resort, attracted more than 120 players. The March 29 poker tournament, Aces for Aftercare, drew more than 100 players. Meanwhile, Gulfstream’s walking ring – which has become the focus of The Village at Gulfstream Park with its colored, shooting fountains – was the site of the official Florida Derby party March 30, with all the proceeds from live and silent auctions going to the permanently disabled jockeys and Gulfstream’s after-care program.
The following morning, Derby morning, fans started staking their places in Gulfstream’s picnic and tiki area as early as 7 a.m. By the time the starting gates opened for the $1 million Florida Derby at 5:48 p.m. – the seventh stakes race of the afternoon – the crowd of more than 18,000 was ready to crown a new Florida Derby winner and Kentucky Derby favorite. The winner, Take Charge Indy, was given a rousing ovation as he entered the floral-filled winner’s circle to the delight of three-time Kentucky Derby winning jockey Calvin Borel, trainer Pat Byrne, owners Chuck and Maribeth Sandford, and a national television audience.
It was a fitting ending to a record day at Gulfstream Park.
For more information, contact 954-454-7000 or visit gulfstreampark.com.