This year marks the 69th running of the Florida Derby (G1), the Sunshine State’s major prep for the Kentucky Derby (G1), which is now set to be held in five months at Churchill Downs because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Major props to Gulfstream Park for fighting to stay open in this upside-down world and giving the South Florida racetrack community and racing fans a sense of normalcy while caring for our most precious asset. And for the first time this year, the race is sponsored by a horse, two-time Horse of the Year Curlin, who stands at Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms in Lexington, Kentucky.
This year, the nine-furlong race offers a purse of $750,000, down from $1 million a year ago and for the first time since 2010 to help boost local overnight purses and keep racing going.
More importantly, however, the race offers Road to the Derby qualifying points on a scale of 100-40-20-10 to the top four finishers, which guarantees the winner, and quite probably the runner-up, a spot in the starting gate under the Twin Spires.
Since it was first contested in 1952, the Florida Derby has consistently drawn what amounts to the best sophomores with Derby aspirations in training on the East Coast.
Fourteen Florida Derby winners also won in Kentucky:
- Needles (1956)
- Tim Tam (1958)
- Carry Back (1961)
- Northern Dancer (1964)
- Spectacular Bid (1979)
- Swale (1984)
- Unbridled (1990)
- Thunder Gulch (1995)
- Monarchos (2001), Barbaro (2006)
- Big Brown (2008)
- Orb (2013)
- Nyquist (2016)
- Always Dreaming (2017)
Two more would be on that list had they not been disqualified in Kentucky – Dancer’s Image for a post-race medication positive in 1968 and Maximum Security for his right turn at the quarter pole last year.
Additionally, a number of other Florida Derby winners went on to win the Preakness and/or Belmont Stakes. And since 2000 alone, the Florida Derby has produced six Kentucky Derby winners, the most for any of the major preps despite the fact that it hasn’t had the most starters in Louisville.
A year ago, Maximum Security burst onto the racing scene with his dominant 3 ½-length Florida Derby win before taking all of us on the wildest, wackiest ride starting with his Kentucky Derby win and then disqualification, a scary bout of colic, a trip to the Middle East to win the inaugural $20 million Saudi Cup and the subsequent indictment and arrest of his trainer for allegedly drugging him, as well as several of his stablemates. He may eventually be considered the most well-known Florida Derby winner but unfortunately not for his racing record.
Todd Pletcher has saddled five Florida Derby winners to lead all trainers:
- 2007 – Scat Daddy
- 2014 – Constitution
- 2015 – Materiality
- 2017 – Always Dreaming
- 2018 – Audible
Hall of Famer John Velazquez has ridden five to be the top jockey:
- 2009 – Quality Road
- 2013 – Orb
- 2015 – Materiality
- 2017 – Always Dreaming
- 2018 – Audible
Three of those victories coming aboard Pletcher’s horses. The old Calumet Farm regime of Gene and Lucille Markey remain the stakes race’s top owners, having their devil’s red and blue silks worn by five runners.
Names of past Florida Derby winners even the casual racing fan would recognize include Nashua, Carry Back, In Reality, Honest Pleasure, Alydar, Snow Chief, Holy Bull, Unbridled’s Song, Monarchos and Empire Maker.
Twelve are expected to head postward in the day’s feature, which has been carded as the 14th with a post time of 6:36 p.m. ET. The weather in Hallandale Beach is supposed to be warm and about 80 under partly cloudy skies, so a fast track is probable all day.
|1||As Seen On TV||P. Lopez||K. Breen||12-1||Lookin At Lucky—Untamed Passion, by Pulpit|
|2||Shivaree||E. Jaramillo||R. Nicks||30-1||Awesome of Course—Garter Belt, by Anasheed|
|3||Disc Jockey||T. Gaffalione||S. Joseph, Jr.||20-1||Bodemeister—Cup o’ Luck, by Borrego|
|4||Soros||E. Prado||G. Delgado||30-1||Commissioner—Eastern Ruckus, by Eastern Echo|
|5||Gouverneur Morris||J. Velazquez||T. Pletcher||8-1||Constitution—Addison Run, by Unbridled’s Song|
|6||Ajaaweed||L. Saez||K. McLaughlin||20-1||Curlin—Asiya, by Daaher|
|7||Tiz the Law||M. Franco||B. Tagg||6-5||Constitution—Tizfiz, by Tiznow|
|8||My First Grammy||H. Berrios||A. Sanchez||50-1||Curlin—Tabulation, by Giant’s Causeway|
|9||Independence Hall||J. Rosario||M. Trombetta||9-2||Constitution—Kalahari Cat, by Cape Town|
|10||Candy Tycoon||J. Castellano||T. Pletcher||20-1||Twirling Candy–Liberty’s Lyric, by Unbridled’s Song|
|11||Sassy But Smart||J. Bravo||K. Condie||50-1||Overdriven—Home Run Sassy, by Unbridled America|
|12||Ete Indien||F. Geroux||P. Biancone||4-1||Summer Front—East India, by Mizzen Mast|
|13||(ae) Rogue Element||M. Vasquez||D. Romans||NL||Honor Code—Sweet Success, by Candy Ride|
California native and lifelong horsewoman Margaret Ransom is a graduate of the University of Arizona’s Race Track Industry Program. She got her start in racing working in the publicity departments at Calder Race Course and Hialeah Park, as well as in the racing office at Gulfstream Park in South Florida. She then spent six years in Lexington, KY, at BRISnet.com, where she helped create and develop the company’s popular newsletters: Handicapper’s Edge and Bloodstock Journal.
After returning to California, she served six years as the Southern California news correspondent for BloodHorse, assisted in the publicity department at Santa Anita Park and was a contributor to many other racing publications, including HorsePlayer Magazine and Trainer Magazine. She then spent seven years at HRTV and HRTV.com in various roles as researcher, programming assistant, producer and social media and marketing manager.
She has also walked hots and groomed runners, worked the elite sales in Kentucky for top-class consignors and volunteers for several racehorse retirement organizations, including CARMA.
In 2016, Margaret was the recipient of the prestigious Stanley Bergstein Writing Award, sponsored by Team Valor, and was an Eclipse Award honorable mention for her story, “The Shocking Untold Story of Maria Borell,” which appeared on USRacing.com. The article and subsequent stories helped save 43 abandoned and neglected Thoroughbreds in Kentucky and also helped create a new animal welfare law known as the “Borell Law.”
Margaret’s very first Breeders’ Cup was at Hollywood Park in 1984 and she has attended more than half of the Breeders’ Cups since. She counts Holy Bull and Arrogate as her favorite horses of all time. She lives in Pasadena with her longtime beau, Tony, two Australian Shepherds and one Golden Retriever.