Gulfstream’s Championship Meet kicks off Dec. 3 with a big weekend of stakes races, Claiming Crown, and the popular calendar giveaway.
Friday’s 10-race program will be highlighted by two stakes races for 2-year-olds at a mile on the turf in the $75,000 Pulpit and $75,000 Wait a While for fillies.
The Pulpit could attract a full field including Eldon’s Prince, a winner this summer and fall of Gulfstream’s Armed Forces and Proud Man, Kitodan, who broke his maiden at Gulfstream before finishing ninth in the Hopeful (G1) at Saratoga, Duke of Love, who won his debut at Woodbine for MyRacehorse and trainer Josie Carroll, and Red Danger, second to Howling Wind in the Street Sense at Churchill Downs.
Possibles for the Wait a While include Lemieux, winner last out of the Brethren Juvenile Fillies Stakes, Myfavoritedaughter, fourth in the Del Mar Debutante (G1) in September, Gun Boat, a daughter of War Front trained by Shug McGaughey, and the Saffie Joseph-trained Sister Lou Ann.
Claiming Crown Saturday
Gulfstream’s first Saturday of the Championship Meet will be highlighted by the Claiming Crown, a nine-race event offering $810,000 in purses. Along with watching some of racing’s most popular, blue-collar horses, fans can get their free 2022 calendar on Saturday beginning at 12 p.m. Calendars will be available at the north and south entrances.
Entries for Friday card will be taken Tuesday.
The month of December will also feature four graded stakes on Saturday, Dec. 18, headlined by the $200,000 Fort Lauderdale (G2). Gulfstream’s Championship Meet will feature major races every week with spectacular weekend events, including $5.2 million Pegasus World Cup Day Jan. 29, $650,000 Holy Bull Day Feb. 5, $1.7 million Fountain of Youth Day March 5, and the $2.2 million Florida Derby Day April 2.
Gulfstream’s concert series will also kick into gear during the Championship Meet in the Sport of Kings Theater with Jefferson Starship Jan. 2, The Wall and Beyond, an Exclusive Pink Floyd Experience Jan. 15, Voices of Classic Soul Jan. 20, and The Immediate Family Feb. 20.
Championship Meet Will Break New Ground with Tapeta
The 2021-2022 Championship Meet will break new ground when racing is conducted on Gulfstream Park’s newly constructed Tapeta surface, as well as on turf and dirt, for the first time during the winter stand that gets underway Friday.
The well-received all-weather surface, which debuted during the inaugural Fall Meet, was constructed upon the advent of year-round racing at the Hallandale Beach racetrack. While the turf course was undergoing renovation during October and November in preparation for the Championship Meet, the Tapeta course proved to be a popular alternative surface to the main track.
Gulfstream is the first racetrack in the Americas to card races on dirt, turf and an all-weather surface. There are no stakes scheduled on the Tapeta course, but the all-weather racing surface will be employed in the event stakes are transferred from the turf course due to inclement conditions.
A total of 143 races were run over the Tapeta course at the recently concluded Fall Meet while producing some expected and perhaps unexpected results.
Horses that favor turf over dirt performed well over the all-weather surface, as widely expected overall. After the first two weeks of racing on Tapeta, horses that had made their most recent starts on turf won 27 of 37 races for a whopping 73 percent. As the meet progressed and horses started running back on Tapeta with no turf races available to them, the percentage of horses going from Turf to the all-weather track dropped to 41 percent.
Favorites had a win-strike of 36 percent.
Horses coming from off the pace dominated during the first two weeks of racing on the Tapeta course, winning 22 of 37 races or 59 percent of the races. At meet’s end, closers succeeded at a 41-percent clip. After the first two weeks only three horses won on the front end (8 percent), but the speedsters fared better as the meet went along to score at a 17-percent clip by winning 25 of 143 races. Horses pressing or stalking the pace won the remainder of the races.
Saffie Joseph Jr., who dominated the Fall Meet trainer standings, saddled 21 of his 36 winners for victories on the all-weather surface. David Fawkes ranked second with 10 winners with considerably fewer starters.
Edgard Zayas, the Fall Meet champion, led all jockeys with 16 winners on Tapeta. A resurgent Chantal Sutherland, who finished second in the Fall Meet standings, was next with 13 winners.