The 2021-2022 Championship Meet will commence on Dec. 3 at Gulfstream Park with an 11-race program starting at noon, featuring two stakes races and a return of many of the country’s leading Thoroughbreds, owners, trainers and jockeys.
Friday’s $75,000 Pulpit and the $75,000 Wait a While, mile turf stakes for 2-year-olds and 2-year-old fillies, respectively, will kick off a $14.26 stakes schedule that will include 37 graded stakes among 76 stakes to be run during the Championship Meet that will run through April 3.
The $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) and the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1) will be renewed on Jan. 29, joined by the newly created $500,000 Pegasus Filly & Mare Turf Invitational (G3) on a day with seven graded stakes that annually showcases World Class racing, entertainment, fashion and dining.
The $1 million Florida Derby (G1), a Triple Crown Prep rich in tradition, will to highlight an April 2 program with 10 stakes, including six graded stakes. The purses for the Florida Derby preps, the $150,000 Mucho Macho Man on Jan. 1, the $250,000 Holy Bull (G3) on Feb. 5, and the $400,000 Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth (G2) on March 5, all received purse increases.
All stakes are scheduled to be contested on dirt or turf, although in the event of inclement weather, stakes will be transferred from turf to the newly installed all-weather Tapeta surface, which made its well-received debut during the Fall Meet.
Maiden special weight and optional claiming allowance purses during the Championship Meet have also been increased by $8000 over last season’s levels.
Trainer Todd Pletcher, who will have horses stabled at Palm Beach Downs and Gulfstream, will be on a quest to win an unprecedented 19th Championship Meet title after topping the standings with 58 victories in 2020-2021. The Hall of Fame trainer has saddled a record six winners of the Florida Derby, including last year’s victor, Known Agenda.
Irad Ortiz Jr. will seek his fourth-straight Championship Meet riding title after winning a record 140 races at Gulfstream last season. The defending three-time Eclipse Award winner teamed with Pletcher last season to win the Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational with Colonel Liam and the Florida Derby with Known Agenda.
The Mark Casse-trained duo of Lemieux and Palmach, both coming off convincing victories over the Tapeta course, will clash with seven other juvenile fillies in the Wait a While.
Saffie Joseph Jr.-trained Eldon’s Prince will chase his third straight stakes victory in the Pulpit, which attracted a field of 12 juveniles, including Red Danger, the winner of Kentucky Downs’ $250,000 Juvenile Sprint on turf and most recently, runner-up in the Street Sense stakes over Churchill’s main track.
The $810,000 Claiming Crown, an event with nine starter stakes that rewards Thoroughbred’s blue-collar horses, will be held on Saturday. The Clasico del Caribe, an annual championship event for horses based in Latin American and Caribbean countries, will be simulcast at Gulfstream Saturday and Sunday.