Opening Day Friday 2023-2024 Championship Meet

November 30, 2023

Atone, winner of the Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1), is scheduled to make his return Saturday. (Lauren King) 

David Joseph/Gulfstream Park

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – The 2023-2024 Championship Meet will get underway Friday at Gulfstream Park with the return of turf racing during the elite winter session that will host World Class Thoroughbred racing through March 31.

A Gulfstream Park calendar giveaway has been scheduled for Friday and Saturday. The popular calendars featuring exquisite photos of memorable races from last season will be available while supplies last.

Live racing will be offered four days a week Thursday through Sunday before a five-day race week begins Dec. 24. First-race post time is set for 12:10 p.m. daily. 

A completely renovated turf course that has been widened by 15 feet will be unveiled Friday with two grass races on the opening-day schedule –  a mile optional claiming maiden for 2-year-old fillies in Race 1 and a five-furlong optional claiming allowance for 3-year-olds and up in Race 8, featuring the return of Yes I Am Free, who has won the Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint (G3) the past two years, in a stakes-quality field. There will no longer be runups in turf races.

Three races on turf are scheduled for Saturday, when the Tropical Turf Pick Three will debut. The $3 minimum wager, which has a low 15-percent takeout, will be available on the last three turf races every Saturday and Sunday. Races 1, 8 and 11 will make up Saturday’s Tropical Turf Pick Three. Atone, who won this year’s $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1), is scheduled to make his return to Gulfstream in Race 8. On days when racing is taken off the turf, the races will be contested on Tapeta.

Forte scoring the 2023 Florida Derby. (Coglianese)

A mandatory payout of the 20-cent Rainbow 6 pool will be held Saturday. There is a $125,000 guaranteed gross jackpot pool on Friday’s opening-day card.

The 2023-2024 Championship Meet will feature 68 stakes worth $14.875 million. The $3 million Pegasus World Cup (G1), the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) on Jan. 27 and the $1 million Curlin Florida Derby (G1) on March 30 will be among 34 graded stakes to be renewed.

The Pegasus World Cup Day program, a celebration of World Class racing, entertainment, fashion, food and fun, will feature seven graded stakes. The Pegasus World Cup, a 1 1/8-mile invitational for 4-year-olds and up, has established itself as the first major target of the new racing season for the classic division. The Pegasus World Cup Turf, a 1 1/8-mile invitational that will be contested by 4-year-olds and up, over Gulfstream Park’s new turf course. The $500,000 Pegasus Filly & Mare Turf (G3), a 1 1/16-mile invitational for fillies and mares 4-years old and up, will also be contested Jan. 27 on the turf course that is scheduled to host 38 stakes during the Championship Meet.

The Curlin Florida Derby, a 1 1/8-mile stakes for 3-year-olds that has established itself as the premier Triple Crown prep, will headline the March 30 program that will offer eight stakes, five graded. The $150,000 Mucho Macho Man, a mile stakes for newly turned 3-year-olds, will kick off the Road to the 73rd running of the Curlin Florida Derby on the New Year’s Day program Jan. 1, followed by the $250,000 Holy Bull (G3) Feb. 1 and the $400,000 Fountain of Youth (G2) March 2.

Bentornato skips to victory in the Affirmed Oct. 21. (Ryan Thompson)

The $300,000 In Reality and $300,000 My Dear Girl, the final legs of the 2023 FTBOA Florida Sire Stakes series, will kick off the stakes schedule Saturday. Undefeated Bentornato will bid to sweep the colts & geldings division series in the In Reality, while unbeaten R Harper Rose heads the fillies division in the My Dear Girl.

Saffie Joseph Jr. will seek his third consecutive Championship Meet training title. The 36-year-old conditioner prevailed over Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, 47-42, in the win column. Pletcher, an 18-time Championship Meet titlist, will seek to regain the throne.  

Irad Ortiz Jr. will be on a quest to win back-to-back Championship Meet riding titles after amassing a dazzlingly total of 128 victories during the 2022-2023 stand.

Hall of Famer John Velazquez and Joe Bravo, who have wintered in Southern California the last few years, have returned to Gulfstream Park’s jockey colony for the 2023-2024 Championship Meet. International stars Oisin Murphy and Sean Levey are scheduled to compete during the Championship Meet. Vincent Cheminaud, Chris Emigh will also ride during the winter meet for the first time.

Trainers John Ortiz and Brittany Vanden Berg are among the new faces for the Championship Meet.

@jonathanstettin Great article!

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