December 26 promises to be one of the most important days in the history of 1/ST Racing. It’s opening day of the Classic Meet at Santa Anita, opening day of the Championship Meet at Gulfstream Park and host date of the Christmastide Day stakes card at Laurel Park. All month, 1/ST BET will prepare you for a 26th of December to Remember with special content.
With today’s return to turf racing at Gulfstream Park, we’re green with intrigue. Handicapper and racing historian Jeremy Plonk looks to the Dec. 26 Tropical Park Derby at Gulfstream Park and provides his Mount Rushmore of greats to grace that race’s winner's circle.
Barbaro (2006): Remembered for his dominant, 6-1/2 length victory in the Kentucky Derby of 2006, he started the season on New Year’s Day winning the Tropical Park Derby in what would be his final turf start. The Michael Matz trainee ran the table on dirt the rest of the Gulfstream Park meeting with victories in the Holy Bull and Florida Derby. His only loss in 7 lifetime starts came in his ill-fated Preakness finale.
Kitten’s Joy (2004): Fans of a younger vintage may only recall Kitten’s Joy as a prolific sire of countless turf stars in recent years. But his 2004 New Year’s Day Tropical Park Derby score at Calder was an early part of his remarkable record of 7 wins and 3 seconds from 10 lifetime turf stakes bids. Dale Romans trained Kitten’s Joy to victories in races like the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, Virginia Derby and Secretariat Stakes, while he also was runner-up in the Arlington Million and Breeders’ Cup Turf.
Mecke (1995): One of the most durable and versatile stars of the mid-90s, Mecke earned $2.4 million in a 40-start career. The 1995 Tropical Park Derby at Calder was his second stakes victory and spring-boarded him to future success in races like the Grade 1 Super Derby at Louisiana Downs, Grade 1 Turf Classic at Churchill Downs and Grade 1 Arlington Million. The Manny Tortora trainee placed in races like the Grade 1 Florida Derby and Grade 1 Donn Handicap on dirt as well as the Grade 1 Canadian International (twice) on turf.
Colonel Liam (2020): The ’20 Tropical Park Derby was the first stakes win for the Todd Pletcher trainee, but he would go on to bank $1.8 million total with back-to-back wins in the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Turf at Gulfstream in 2021 and 2022, as well as scores in the Grade 1 Turf Classic at Churchill and Grade 2 Muniz Memorial at Fair Grounds in a 7-for-11 career.
The 26th of December to Remember Stakes Lineup
Gulfstream Park | Championship Meet | Opening Day
$100K Tropical Park Derby
$100K Tropical Park Oaks
Santa Anita | Classic Meet | Opening Day
$300K G1 Malibu
$300K G1 American Oaks
$300K G1 La Brea
$200K G2 Mathis Mile
$200K G2 San Antonio
$200K G2 San Gabriel
Laurel Park | Christmastide Day Stakes
$100K Dave’s Friend
$100K Gin Talking
$100K Robert Manfuso
$100K Willa On the Move