The 66th running of the Florida Derby will take place Saturday, April 1, at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach. With a $1 million purse, it’s South Florida’s most celebrated annual race. And fans can even win a prize for wearing a fancy hat.
Gunnevera, champion of 2016’s $1 million Delta Jackpot and Saratoga Special, is an early favorite to win the 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-olds.
Javier Castellano, who won the 2014 derby with Constitution, will be Gunnevera’s rider.
Throughout its history, 43 Florida Derby starters have won 58 Triple Crown races. Last year, Nyquist was the 23rd winner to go on to victory in the Kentucky Derby.
In total on Saturday, there will be 14 races, including nine stakes, with more than $2.5 million in purses.
A year ago on Florida Derby day, $32 million was bet on all races, says Michael Nyman, the track’s marketing director.
The largest Florida Derby win payoff for a $2 bet was $183.60 in 1966, and the smallest was $2.10 in 1976 and 1979.
Racing begins at noon. General admission is free, but free seats are limited and can’t be reserved. The grandstand is sold out, but $50 Sport of Kings and $25 Walking Ring seats are still available.
Prizes in the Divas & Dudes Hat Contest will be awarded in five categories based on age and gender, and it includes kids. It will take place after the call to post for Race 8.
WHAT’S UP AT THE SHOWDOWN
The Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown began on March 16 at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino (1 Seminole Way, Hollywood, 800-937-0010, SeminoleHardRockHollywood.com) and runs until April 9. It has 31 primary events.
In Event 1, Henry Meacham, of Massachusetts, defeated 3,016 entries in a no-limit hold ’em with a $360 buy-in to walk with $122,467.
The $300 Ladies No-Limit Hold ’Em was won by Sunrise’s Robyn Marshman, who pocketed $3,972. And the $300 Seniors 50+ No-Limit Hold ’Em was won by Scott Apgar, of Fort Lauderdale. He took home $7,070.
The WPT Showdown Championship starts Friday, March 31, and guarantees $2 million in payouts after a $3,500 buy-in. The WPT Seminole Hard Rock Finale opens on Sunday, April 2, and also has a $2 million guarantee — but with a $10,000 buy-in.
Other events include March 29’s Super High Roller, with a whopping $50,000 buy-in, and April 4’s High Roller, which will cost you only $25,500 to play. Each will pay out $1 million.
The $15,000 WPT Tournament of Champions, scheduled for April 7-9, will be live streamed on WPT.com.
THAT’S THE TICKET
Jon Lovitz, who came to fame as a cast member on “Saturday Night Live,” will perform standup comedy July 15 at the Casino at Dania Beach (301 E. Dania Beach Blvd., 954-920-1511, CasinoDaniaBeach.com). TicketS cost from $20 to $125.
Marvin Dixon, who has appeared on HBO’s “Def Comedy Jam” and BET’s “Comic View,” is presenting “Fifty Shades of Comedy” ($15-$50) on May 6. Dixon will perform as well as introduce comics Henry Welch, Damon Williams and Steve Brown.
The Wailers will play their reggae hits at Magic City Casino (450 NW 37th Ave., Miami, 305-649-3000, MagicCityCasino.com) on Saturday, April 8, at 8 p.m. The concert is free for the public.
And the Four Tops will perform there ($25-$125) on Friday, April 28. Of the four original members, only Abdul “Duke” Fakir, 81, still sings for the Motown group.