With the Kentucky Derby (G1) prep races in their final few weeks, usracing.com is publishing profiles on the contenders for the $750,000 Florida Derby (G1) on Saturday [March 27], a Derby points-qualifier offering 100-40-20-10 points to the first four finishers. Post-position and odds will be updated following Wednesday’s draw.
By Ed McNamara
Shug McGaughey trains his young horses the old-fashioned way, allowing them to mature at their own pace. Greatest Honour ran well without winning in his first three starts [third twice at 7 furlongs, second at 1 1/8 miles] before breaking through with a win at 1 1/16 miles on Dec. 26 at Gulfstream Park.
It’s unusual for deep closers to do their best work at speed-favoring Gulfstream, but this come-from-behind runner is 3-for-3 there. Coming off impressive wins in the Holy Bull and the Fountain of Youth, both at 1 1/16 miles, Greatest Honour is the deserving favorite for Saturday’s 1 1/8-mile, Grade 1 Florida Derby.
“He was kind of a big clown and did what he wanted to do last summer at Saratoga,” McGaughey said. “Sprinting wasn’t going to be his bag. His three races here have been very good. The distances have helped, too — two turns. I think the farther we go, the better.”
Greatest Honour has the same running style as McGaughey’s only Derby winner. In 2013, Shug finally got the roses at age 62 when Orb surged from 17th after 6 furlongs to score by 2 1/2 lengths on a sloppy track. A hot pace set by Palace Malice [45.33-second half-mile] helped set up the deep closer.
Like Greatest Honour, Orb didn’t break his maiden until his fourth start. Then he won three straight at Gulfstream, including the Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby, before heading to Louisville. Fans of pattern recognition undoubtedly are fans of Greatest Honour and probably have invested in him in the Derby Future Wager.
Post position: TBD
Trainer: Shug McGaughey
Jockey: Jose Ortiz
Owner: Courtlandt Farms
Career record: 6-3-1-2
Career earnings: $351,940
Best Equibase speed rating: 106
Pedigree: Tapit-Tiffany’s Honour, by Street Cry
Running style: Closer
Notes: In his third start, and first around two turns, Greatest Honour was second by a head at Aqueduct to Todd Pletcher’s Known Agenda, whom he’ll face again in the Florida Derby … Besides the 2013 Kentucky Derby, McGaughey won the 1989 Belmont Stakes with Easy Goer, denying archrival Sunday Silence the Triple Crown … Jose Ortiz’s only classic victory came on Tapwrit in the 2017 Belmont. Ortiz won the Eclipse Award that year after leading the nation with 351 victories the year before. His older brother, Irad, earned the past three Eclipses.
Ed McNamara is an award-winning journalist who has been writing about thoroughbred racing for 35 years. He has handicapped races for ESPN.com, Newsday and The Record of New Jersey. He is the author of “Cajun Racing: From the Bush Tracks to the Triple Crown” and co-author of “The Most Glorious Crown,” a chronicle of the first 12 Triple Crown champions.