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2017 Florida Derby Day

horse racing
Trainer Todd Pletcher greets John Velazquez and Always Dreaming after winning the Florida Derby
Date: 04/01/2017

The highlight of the Gulfstream Park meeting for Triple Crown season is the $1 million Xpressbet Florida Derby (G1), a major prep for the Kentucky Derby worth 100 points to the winner as part of the Kentucky Derby Championship Series. A field of 10 three-year-olds contested this 1 1/8 mile trip on Saturday afternoon under mostly sunny skies and temperatures in the mid 80's. As expected Fountain of Youth (G2) and Delta Jackpot (G3) winner Gunnevera was sent off as the 11-10 favorite. In to challenge him included 5-2 second choice Always Dreaming, winner of two allowances in a row and making his stakes debut here, and 4-1 third choice State of Honor, second in the Tampa bay Derby (G3).
horse racing
Always Dreaming leads down the stretch

When the gate opened Gunnevera was last away and angled in to save ground immediately as 11-2 fourth choice Three Rules led through fractions of 23.28, 47.08, and 1:10.75 while pressed by Always Dreaming and stalked by State of Honor. On the far turn Always Dreaming moved up 4 wide to take over, opening up by 2 1/2 lengths over the tiring Three Rules through 1 mile in 1:34.94. Kept to task by jockey John Velazquez, Always Dreaming drew off to win by 5 lengths over State of Honor in 1:47.47 over the fast main track. It was another 1 1/2 lengths back to late-running favorite Gunnevera third.

horse racing
Pgm  Horse              Jockey         Win   Place  Show
 4   Always Dreaming    Velazquez     7.40    3.80  2.60
 1   State of Honor     Leparoux              4.80  2.80
11   Gunnevera          Castellano                  2.10

Winning Time:  1:47.47

$2 Exacta 4-1                 39.80
$1 Trifecta 4-1-11            44.90
$0.10 Superfecta 4-1-11-8     26.45 
Results Chart from DRF.

horse racinghorse racingLeft: Always Dreaming in the winners circle. Winning trainer Todd Pletcher (far left) said, "The horse has been training exceptionally well and we were confident he was going to run as well as he's capable of, and thankfully he did. I have to be honest with you, he was training so well that I would have been disappointed had he not run well, but that was a very impressive performance. Certainly, that's why we were here today to hopefully get the points to go on."

Right: Always Dreaming gets hosed off after the race. Winning owner Antonio Bonomo said, "All day you're nervous leading up to the race and it's your dream to run a race like this and to win it is unbelievable. I don't know what to feel like anymore except to know I'm elated. When we saw him making the turn we knew he had a lot of horse and we knew that's how he likes to run. We thought he had enough to come home and win, and there's nothing like watching your horse pass the finish line. It's exciting. It's really a great race. I'll think about [the Kentucky Derby] in about nine hours. Right now, this was a great win and we're just thrilled. He's a good horse."

horse racinghorse racingLeft: Always Dreaming heads to the paddock before the race. Pletcher added, "I think the whole program really helped today. We brought him along gradually, opted for the allowance race on Fountain of Youth day and I think all that paid off. With two 1 1/8 wins and the way he galloped out today, I'm confident he'll get the trip. Like always, you want them to stay healthy and you have to have some good luck for the next five weeks."

Right: Always Dreaming in the post parade.

horse racinghorse racingLeft: Second place finisher State of Honor heads to the paddock before the race. Jockey Julien Leparoux said, "I had a really good trip. We took the blinkers off. He was a little keen the last time at Tampa so we took the blinkers off and tried to rate him a little bit. He was a little keen on the first turn but he switched off on the backside and he was just second-best. We got through on the fence and he gave me all he's got. He was just second-best."

Right: Third place finisher and beaten favorite Gunnevera returns after the race. Trainer Antonio Sano said, "The horse wasn't comfortable in the beginning. He finished strong but the horses in the front weren't stopping. I'm happy. This is an important race to win, but it was a good race for the next one."

horse racing
The start of the Florida Derby with Gunnevera (post 11) slowest away. Javier Castellano aboard Gunnevara said, "I had a good trip. I saved all the ground in the first turn and the way he ended up, I didn't have it today. I was riding, riding all the way in the race. He never grabbed the bit, he never pulled like he always used to. Maybe he was affected by the track – the track was speed today. I saved all the ground. I did the right thing for the horse and I tried to develop the horse. Unfortunately, he didn't have it today."

horse racing The distaff counterpart to the Florida Derby is the $250,000 Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) at 1 1/16 miles, worth 100 points to the winner as part of the Kentucky Oaks Championship Series. Maiden winner Salty was the even-money favorite in the field of 8 over 7-2 Nonna Bella, undefeated in 2 allowance races, and 15-4 third choice Tequilita, winner of both the Smart Halo and the Forward Gal (G2).

Jockey John Velazquez sent Nonna Bella to the lead entering the clubhouse turn through fractions of 23.26 and 46.72 while pressed by 10-1 Modacious and stalked by 6-1 Jordan's Henny. Down the backstretch Jordan's Henny took over through 3/4 in 1:10.77. However, Salty and jockey Joel Rosario, 5th early, swept to the lead 5 wide into the lane, quickly opening up by 2 1/2 lengths through 1 mile in 1:35.96. Kept to task by Rosario, Salty drew off to win by 4 1/4 lengths over late-running Tequilita in 1:42.91. It was another 1 1/2 lengths back to Jordan's Henny third.

Results Chart from DRF.

horse racinghorse racing Left: Salty in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Mark Casse said, "We were back a little farther than I thought we would be. You're always worried when you think a filly would run two turns when you look at her physique and everything, but Joel (Rosario) got her moving 3/4 mile out and that's a long, sustained run -- I was a little nervous about it. Even afterward, Joel said, ‘Maybe I moved a little early.' But she's extremely talented as everyone saw today. We're excited just to have her."

Right: Salty heads to the winner's circle. Winning jockey Joel Rosario said, "I thought that there would be some speed, and it was exactly how it happened. I got her going a little early because of the first wire. She responded very, very nice. The more you ride her the more she keeps giving it to you. I felt confident in the last turn when she was trying to get up and getting close to the leader."

horse racinghorse racing
Left: Second place finisher Tequilita in the post parade.

Right: Third place finisher Jordan's Henny returns after the race.

horse racinghorse racing A field of just 5 older fillies and mares went 1 3/8 miles on the turf in the $200,000 Orchid Stakes (G3). 2-1 second choice Maquette was quickest away through fractions of 23.47, 46.12, 1:10.54, and 1:35.12 while pressed by 4-5 favorite Olorda and stalked by 6-1 third choice Quiet Kitten. At the top of the stretch Maquette tired allowing Olorda to gain the lead through 1 1/4 miles in 1:59.90. However, 9-1 Summersault, 4th early under Paco Lopez, rallied 3 wide to win by 3/4 length in 2:12.24 over the firm going. It was another 2 lengths back to Quiet Kitten third.

Results Chart from DRF.

Winning trainer Mark Hennig said, "If you go back to the one meet that the turf was real hard at Saratoga [in 2015] she won two races. When she can hear her feet rattle over it, she does well. I was concerned about it a little when the field spread out, because when she finds daylight and is by herself she'll kind of lose focus. I thought Paco was good and patient with her. Once he got up in behind them, I got more confident." Winning jockey Paco Lopez added, "I know [pacesetter Maquette] was going very, very fast. My filly is always running a little more close, but I don't push. At the half-mile/five-eighths, I ask my filly. She was coming and coming. She finished very well."

horse racinghorse racing
Left: Second place finisher and beaten favorite Olorda in the post parade.

Right: Third place finisher Quiet Kitten in the post parade.

horse racinghorse racing A field of 6 older fillies and mares contested the $300,000 Honey Fox Stakes (G2) at 1 mile on turf. Jockey Jose Ortiz sent 3-10 favorite Celestine to the front first time by through fractions of 24.45, 49.01, and 1:12.85 while pressed by 15-1 Josdesanimaux and stalked by 16-1 Mississippi Delta. Entering the stretch, Celestine opened up by 2 1/2 lengths through 7f in 1:23.93. Kept to task by Ortiz, Celestine cruised to a 1 1/4 length win over Mississippi Delta in 1:35.19, repeating the winning exacta from last year's running. It was another length back to 7-2 second choice Linda third.

Results Chart from DRF.

Winning trainer Christophe Clement said, "You're not going to beat this filly if she's the first one to dictate [the pace]. She's nice. I thought she was fitter today [than her last race]. She trained better. She was tighter and she ran great." Winning jockey Jose Ortiz added, "It was great. I broke well but the No. 6 horse looked like he wanted the lead, so I gave it to him. Then [Lezcano] looked back at me and he gave it back to me and I appreciated it. We were going slow and I didn't hesitate to take it back. I took the lead again and from the three-eighths pole to the wire she ran fast."
horse racinghorse racing
Left: Second place finisher Mississippi Delta returns after the race.

Right: Third place finisher Linda in the post parade.

horse racinghorse racing Immediately before the Florida Derby, a field of 8 older horses went 1 1/2 miles on the turf in the $200,000 Pan American Stakes (G2). Jockey Javier Castellano sent 11-2 Reporting Star to the lead first time around the far turn through fractions of 24.15, 49.77, 1:15.54, and 1:40.42 while pressed by 12-1 Designed for War and stalked by 27-1 longest shot Snag. Entering the stretch for the last time, Reporting Star tired as Designed for War gained a short lead at the 1/8 pole. However, 7-2 third choice Sadler's Joy, 7th early, came out widest of all into the stretch and rallied to get up by a head in 2:26.89. It was a neck back to 15-4 Patterson Cross third, and a length back to 3-1 favorite Taghleeb fourth.

Results Chart from DRF.

Winning trainer Tom Albertrani said, "I got really excited the first time I ever saw this horse run, the way he finished, and it took him a couple of races to kind of put things together. All of sudden, once we got to Saratoga, he broke his maiden and came back with two more nice wins. We gave him a little time. We just felt this horse had a lot of potential. We stepped him up in the McKnight knowing we could run a decent race and hoping for good results. He ran every bit as good as we thought and came short of one jump of winning the race and today we got lucky and got in front this time. I think he's got so much potential, this horse." Winning jockey Julien Leparoux added, "I had a very good trip. I think Taghleeb got the jump on us last time when he came running and finished very strong. Today I was clear all the way so could make my move whenever I wanted it. He finished up good on that track, a speed-favoring track, to come from where we came from, I think that was a good race. I thought I had it, but everybody was not sure, so I was like, ‘Maybe I didn't get it.' But I thought I had it."

horse racinghorse racing
Left: Second place finisher Designed for War returns after the race.

Right: Third place finisher Patterson Cross in the post parade.

horse racing
Fourth place finisher and beaten favorite Taghleeb heads over to the paddock before the race.

horse racinghorse racing A field of 6 older horses went 1 mile on the turf in the $200,000 Appleton Stakes (G3). Jockey Julien Leparoux sent 4-1 Siding Spring to the lead first time by through fractions of 23.41, 46.29, and 1:09.73 while pressed by 26-1 Diamond Bachelor and stalked by 11-4 Delta Prince. At the 3/16 pole Delta Prince moved up to lead through 7f in 1:21.52, but 11-10 favorite All Included, last for the first 3/4 mile, rallied 6 wide to win by 1/2 a length in 1:33.12. It was another length back to 7-2 Our Way third.

Results Chart from DRF.

Winning jockey Todd Pletcher said, "We didn't necessarily want to be last, it was more about trying to save some ground on the first turn and try to give him plenty of time on the far turn. I said if you have to lose a little ground to get his momentum going, go ahead." Winning jockey Javier Castellano added, "He's a better horse if you take your time and make him go around horses. He gives you a good kick the last part. I made a couple of mistakes in the past. I was too close to the pace, tried to split horses and be aggressive. He's the kind of horse, let him settle and find the best route for him."

horse racinghorse racing
Left: Second place finisher Delta Prince returns after the race.

Right: Third place finisher Our Way in the post parade.

horse racinghorse racing The $100,000 Sir Shackleton Stakes featuring a field of 9 older horses sprinting 7 furlongs on the main track. 8-1 Grand Bill led out of the chute through 1/4 in 22.44 before 6-1 French Quarter took over through fractions of 44.79 and 1:09.28 while pressed by 7-2 Bluegrass Singer. In the stretch French Quarter continued to lead but 7-1 The Truth Or Else, 8h early, closed 7 wide to win going away by 2 1/4 lengths over 5-1 Hammers Vision in 1:22.90. It was another 1 3/4 length back to French Quarter third.

Results Chart from DRF.

Winning owner Harold Lerner said, "I knew he was training well. I wasn't sure if he'd like the surface today but one-turn is his game. He really came running at the end. I'm very proud of him. He's a tough horse. He gives it his all almost every single time. He's definitely an off-the-pace horse. We he was younger, he had some speed. He would show it early in the race. But whoever has ridden him in the past would take him back, let him relax and then make that one big tun. We saw that big run today. He's been staked place a few times but this is his first stakes win so were really happy about that."

horse racinghorse racing The $100,000 Sanibel Island Stakes featured a field of 10 three-year-old fillies going 1 mile on the turf. 8-1 Conquest Hardcandy was sent to the front by Edgard Zayas through fractions of 23.53, 48.81, and 1:12.35 while pressed by 24-1 Fancy Kitten and stalked by 13-1 Accepting. In the lane Conquest Hardcandy continued to lead through 7f in 1:23.70. 2-1 favorite Happy Mesa rallied from 5th early but Conquest Hardcandy held her off by a neck in 1:35.50. It was another 1/2 length back to 4-1 Taperge third.

Results Chart from DRF.

Winning Antonio Sano said, "I bought the filly and waited three months to run the first time. I liked the filly for speed on the turf. She won her first race wire to wire. The next race was very close (three weeks apart). I waited one month for this race. I told Edgard to repeat the first race – wire to wire, win the race. I think last time he went a little too fast."

horse racinghorse racing The $100,000 Cutler Bay Stakes featured 8 three-year-olds going 1 mile on the turf. 87-1 Gemologister led the field through easy fractions of 25.10, 49.00, and 1:12.49 while pressed by 4-1 Shiraz and stalked by 6-5 favorite Dover Cliffs. Gemologister continued to lead to the 1/8 pole through 7f in 1:23.80, but Dover Cliffs easily passed him late to win by 1 1/2 lengths in 1:35.16. It was another 1/2 length back to Shiraz third.

Results Chart from DRF.

2016 Florida Derby won by Nyquist
2015 Florida Derby won by Materiality
2014 Florida Derby won by Constitution
2013 Florida Derby won by Orb
2012 Florida Derby won by Take Charge Indy
2011 Florida Derby won by Dialed In
2010 Florida Derby won by Ice Box
2009 Florida Derby won by Quality Road
2008 Florida Derby won by Big Brown
2007 Florida Derby won by Scat Daddy
2006 Florida Derby won by Barbaro
2005 Florida Derby won by High Fly
2004 Florida Derby won by Friends Lake

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