The Gulfstream Park spur of the Kentucky Derby trail draws to its exciting conclusion Saturday, April 1, with the $1 million Florida Derby (G1)! In addition to its huge purse, it offers a bonanza of Kentucky Derby points (100-40-30-20-10) to its top five finishers. This means the winner is assured a spot in the gate, the second-place finisher probably makes it, and even the third- through fifth-place finishers are in a good spot if they have done well in other points preps.
The race is open to three-year-olds and drew a full field of 12. The morning-line favorite and the true horse to beat is Forte: last year’s juvenile champion. He returned for his three-year-old debut in the Fountain of Youth, and he made it clear that he had trained on nicely. However, eleven others hope they can step up to the challenge and unseat the class leader.
The Florida Derby winner has a strong history of producing Kentucky Derby winners. In total, 24 horses who have run in the Florida Derby have gone on to win the Kentucky Derby, including 15 Florida Derby winners. Three of those winners have done so in the last ten years: Orb (2013), Nyquist (2016), and Always Dreaming (2017).
Race Date: Saturday, April 1, 2023
Track: Gulfstream Park
Post Time: 6:40 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time
Distance: 1 1/8 miles
Where to Watch: FanDuel TV
Where to Bet: TVG.com and FanDuel Racing
This is the official field for the Florida Derby including post positions, trainers, jockeys, and morning-line odds for each runner. Keep in mind that the morning-line odds are just the track’s best estimation of the price on each horse, so watch the live odds all the way until post time to make sure you’re getting the right value on your pick!
|1||Jungfrau||Bill Mott||Paco Lopez||20-1|
|2||West Coast Cowboy||Saffie Joseph, Jr.||Sonny Leon||20-1|
|3||Shaq Diesel||Renaldo Richards||Miguel Vasquez||30-1|
|4||Mage||Gustavo Delgado||Luis Saez||10-1|
|5||Mr. Peeks||Saffie Joseph, Jr.||Edwin Gonzalez||30-1|
|6||Nautical Star||Saffie Joseph, Jr.||Leonel Reyes||30-1|
|7||Il Miracolo||Antonio Sano||Jesus Rios||30-1|
|8||Mr. Ripple||Saffie Joseph, Jr.||Edgard Zayas||30-1|
|9||Cyclone Mischief||Dale Romans||Javier Castellano||8-1|
|10||Fort Bragg||Tim Yakteen||Joel Rosario||5-1|
|11||Forte||Todd Pletcher||Irad Ortiz, Jr.||4-5|
|12||Dubyuhnell||Danny Gargan||Jose Ortiz||6-1|
Five of the twelve entrants in the Florida Derby come from local points races, with four coming straight from the Fountain of Youth (G2). Forte was the emphatic winner, while third-place Cyclone Mischief, fourth-place Mage, and sixth-place Il Miracolo come back for a rematch. (Second-place Rocket Can alters course to the Arkansas Derby.) West Coast Cowboy also comes out of a Derby points race at Gulfstream, though he was last third behind Rocket Can in the Holy Bull (G3)
Four other Florida Derby runners were last seen in Kentucky Derby points races at other tracks, though none even hit the board in their respective preps. Jungfrau was sixth in the Withers (G3), Shaq Diesel was tenth in the Risen Star (G2), Fort Bragg was fifth in the San Felipe (G3), and Dubyuhnell was eighth in the Sam F. Davis (G3).
The other three runners try stakes company for the first time. Mr. Ripple was most recently second in a first-level allowance over the same course and 1 1/8-mile distance as the Florida Derby. The other two try winners (and two-turn trips) for the first time: Nautical Star broke his maiden at Oaklawn last out, while maiden Mr. Peeks was most recently second in a maiden at Gulfstream.
These are the runners in the 2023 Florida Derby, organized by post position:
Jungfrau: He tried the Withers last out in his first start against winners, after breaking his maiden by disqualification at Gulfstream on December 31. He was never involved. He has class to prove and the rail post in a huge field can be a challenge, but he has upside. The return to Gulfstream could help given how well he ran over the course two back, he is well enough bred for this 1 1/8-mile distance, and when Bill Mott places a horse so ambitiously off a poor start he often has very good reason.
West Coast Cowboy: Saffie Joseph sends out four long shots for the Florida Derby, and this is the best of that bunch. Though he graduated over slop at Gulfstream, his two dry-track attempts there against winners have been decent, including a third-place finish behind Rocket Can in the Holy Bull last out. A modest step up from that puts him in the running for another piece of the gimmicks, and that Holy Bull outing exhibited useful tactical speed.
Shaq Diesel: Strong in claimers and starters at both Gulfstream and Tampa, he has been outclassed in all three of his stakes starts. He nabbed an almost “by-default” third-place in a field of six in a sprint stakes at Tampa, but backed out of contention quickly in the Risen Star. Blinkers off is interesting since he may be a better horse from just off the pace than right on it, but he likely finds this field too good.
Mage: A buzz horse off of his debut maiden win at Gulfstream on January 28, he stalked the pace before flattening to fourth in the Fountain of Youth. It was a tough ask off his maiden win, to be sure: first-time stakes and first-time two turns in only his second-ever start. He needs to improve off of that, but he is lightly-enough raced to have upside, he showed tactical pace last out, and he is bred to improve with time and distance.
Mr. Peeks: the only maiden in the field, he shifted from the barn of Ian Wilkes to that of Saffie Joseph after finishing second in a six-furlong maiden race at Gulfstream on March 12. He showed enough pace in both his sprint tries that he should be part of the pace this time, too. Though he is lightly-enough raced to have upside, he’ll have other speed to contend with, and even this top-heavy field is a tough ask for a maiden.
Nautical Star: New to the Saffie Joseph barn as well, he graduated by a nose at Oaklawn for Nathaniel Quinonez before moving to his new barn. Though he may be closer to the pace than he was in his two sprint starts, he still faces winners for the first time. And, despite his trainer’s strong record first-time route, his pedigree is suspect for the stretch out.
Il Miracolo: He graduated at Gulfstream five starts ago, but since then has been badly beaten in four stakes races, including three Kentucky Derby points preps. Trainer Antonio Sano does well first-time blinkers, and his pedigree suggests improvement with extra distance, but his races so far suggest a plateau at a level that isn’t quite up to what he needs to find here.
Mr. Ripple: The last of the Saffie Joseph brigade, he is a pace-pressing type who may get a decent trip if Gulfstream is playing for speed, which it often does. He flattened a little bit in an allowance last out over this distance, but he has the experience under him, he can improve second off the lay, and he loves Gulfstream Park. A win would be a surprise, but a bite of the trifecta or superfecta could happen at a big price.
Cyclone Mischief: A buzz horse off an allowance win back in January, he was well beaten in the Holy Bull but bounced back for a decent enough third in the Fountain of Youth last out. He won’t be alone on the lead, but he doesn’t have to be since his wins have come from a stalking place. He could get a solid enough trip here, though make sure you’re getting enough of a price since his regression two back suggests he may be on a good race, bad race pattern.
Fort Bragg: Originally entered in the Sunland Park Derby, trainer Tim Yakteen routed Fort Bragg to Florida instead. He was an also-ran on the Southern California spur of the Kentucky Derby trail, finishing third in the Los Alamitos Futurity for former trainer Bob Baffert before running fifth in the San Felipe in his first start since the required barn move to keep him on the Derby trail. If he brings that Southern California form to Florida and replicates it at Gulfstream, he stakes up in terms of speed, though he’ll have to rediscover the more forward style he flashed in the maiden ranks.
Forte: People have made a big to-do about post 11 being so bad, but with horses able to win from post 10 and with so few races run at this distance, much less with such a big field? The post argument makes a mountain out of a molehill. The fact is that Forte can drop in wherever he can find a spot to get a tracking to midpack trip. He proved in the Fountain of Youth that he could finish well at Gulfstream (into a pace that wasn’t terribly torrid, to boot), and he is the fastest horse in the field. The champ looks hard to beat.
Dubyuhnell: He looked like a Derby prospect with a lot of upside after digging in so well to win the Remsen two starts back. That makes him the only 1 1/8-mile winner in this field. However, both of his wins have come on off tracks, and both of his flatter efforts have been on fast going. On the other hand? Some horses just hate Tampa, and his other fast-track effort was his debut. Between the fact that Jose Ortiz stays aboard and that trainer Danny Gargan does so well at Gulfstream, perhaps he can right the ship. But, demand a price.
The strongest trend in recent Florida Derby winners is that they won their most recent race. Of the last ten Florida Derby winners, all ten were last-out winners. The second-strongest trend is that they made their most recent start at Gulfstream: nine of the last ten winners raced in Hallandale Beach last out. The only aberration is Nyquist (2016), who won the San Vicente (G2) at Santa Anita before raiding Florida.
Another strong trend is that they were trained by Todd Pletcher, which is good news for the 2023 favorite Forte. Five of the last ten winners came from the Pletcher barn. Audible (2018) came out of a victory in the Holy Bull and Materiality (2015) came out of a win in the Islamorada, a minor stakes at Gulfstream that year. Three other Pletcher winners came out of non-stakes wins: Known Agenda (2021) came out of an allowance win though he had graded experience in the past, while Constitution (2014) and Always Dreaming (2017) came out of allowance wins and made their stakes debuts in the Florida Derby.
Four of them came out of points-race wins at Gulfstream. Only Orb (2013) came out of the Fountain of Youth, though Tiz the Law (2020) and White Abarrio (2022) join Audible as winners who came out of Holy Bull scores.
The other recent winner is Maximum Security (2019), who came into his stakes debut in the Florida Derby off of a starter-optional claiming romp at Gulfstream.
The Florida Derby is the 14th and final race on Gulfstream’s flagship Saturday card. The card includes ten stakes events for a wide range of divisions. In addition to the Kentucky Derby prep, the card also features the $250,000 Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2), a 100-point race on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks.
Other stakes races include the $200,000 Pan American (G3) for open long-distance turf horses, the $150,000 Orchid (G3) for filly and mare long-distance turf runners, the $150,000 Ghostzapper (G3) for older dirt routers, the $100,000 Cutler Bay for sophomore middle-distance turf horses, the $100,000 Sir Shackleton for older sprinters, the $150,000 Sand Springs for older middle-distance turf fillies and mares, and $100,000 Sanibel Island for sophomore middle-distance grass fillies, and the $150,000 Appleton for older turf milers.
With top-class racing and big fields all day, it’s an excehttps://author.numberfire.com/articles/view/48037#… day to stay tuned to FanDuel TV and make your wagers with FanDuel and TVG!
Gulfstream Park is the historic racetrack that hosts the Florida Derby each year. It is the only American racetrack that offers all three racing surfaces: conventional dirt, turf, and a synthetic Tapeta surface. The outer track is a dirt course measuring one and one-eighth miles around, complete with a chute that allows for classic one-turn dirt mile races. The next track inward is a one-mile and seventy-yard Tapeta track that opened in 2021. The inner course is a seven-furlong turf track.
Gulfstream Park has hosted many major races over the years, including the Breeders’ Cup in 1989, 1992, and 1999. In 2017, the race ran the rich Pegasus World Cup for the first time, which was at one time the world’s richest horse race. But the Florida Derby, run along the road to the Kentucky Derby, remains Gulfstream Park’s most established and famous race.
Q: When is the Florida Derby?
A: The 2023 Florida Derby will be run Saturday, April 1, at 6:40 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. The race is the fourteenth and final on Saturday’s Gulfstream card.
Q: Where is the Florida Derby?
A: It takes place at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Florida.
Q: Which trainer has the most wins in the Florida Derby?
A: Todd Pletcher has a dominant six wins in the Florida Derby, with five in the last ten years. This year he brings Forte into the race.
Q: Who is the favorite for the 2023 Florida Derby?
A: Forte is the 4-5 morning-line favorite for the Florida Derby. Between his championship season in 2022 and his dominant score in the 2023 Fountain of Youth, the Todd Pletcher trainee should hold as a heavy favorite all the way through the betting.
Q: Who is the best Florida Derby jockey?
A: Jockey John Velazquez has won this race five times, most recently with 2018 winner Audible. Velazquez does not ride in the race this year. Among the jockeys who do ride this year, no one has won it more than once. Javier Castellano (Cyclone Mischief), Irad Ortiz, Jr. (Forte), and Luis Saez (Mage) have each won once before.
Q: Who won the 2022 Florida Derby?
A: White Abarrio won the 2022 Florida Derby for trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. and jockey Tyler Gaffalione. Gaffalione does not have a call this year, though Joseph sends out Mr. Peeks, Mr. Ripple, Nautical Star, and West Coast Cowboy.
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