Sunday, March 23, 2014

63rd Florida Derby Preview from Gulfstream Park

by Jim Freer

The field is taking shape and the pre-race buildup is underway for the 63rd Florida Derby (Grade 1), to be run at Gulfstream Park on Saturday March 29. Entries will be drawn at 11 a.m. on Wednesday March 26.

Starting Tuesday Inside Florida Horse Racing will have daily coverage of developments during Florida Derby week, and we will have on-scene news and  analysis on the Wednesday draw and on race day.

Gulfstream will have seven other stakes races on Florida Derby Day, including
the $400,000 Gulfstream Park Oaks (Grade 2) at 1 1/8 miles for 3-year-old

Only seven horses are now listed as probable starters for the Florida Derby.
But with the $1 million purse, a field of nine or ten is likely for the 1 1/8
mile race. It is a major prep for the 1 mile Kentucky Derby (Grade 1) on
May 3.

The trainers of Wildcat Red, General a Rod and Cairo Prince have confirmed that
those horses will run in the Florida Derby. Wildcat Red has won two stakes
races at Gulfstream this year. General a Rod and Cairo Prince each have one
Gulfstream stakes victory in 2014.

As of Friday night, fans and rival trainers were wondering if the unbeaten phenom
Social Inclusion will be in the Florida Derby--and whether he might have a new
owner as soon as Saturday.

On March 12, Social Inclusion set a Gulfstream track record of 1:40.97 for 1-
1/16 miles in winning an allowance race. It was his second career start.
Owner Ron Sanchez is considering several multimillion offers to sell the colt.

Whether or not there is a sale, look for Social Inclusion to stay home and make
his stakes debut in the Florida Derby. A second option would be the 1 1/8 mile
Wood Memorial (Grade 1) at Aqueduct in New York on April 5.

Spot, Constitution and Matador also are probable for the Florida Derby.

This past Thursday on the
site we provided an early Florida Derby preview with a focus on Wildcat Red

Gulfstream began its stakes races for 3 year-olds on Jan. 1st with the Gulfstream
Park Derby, a one-turn mile. General a Rod beat Wildcat Red by a head after a
lengthy stretch duel.

On Jan. 25th, Cairo Prince won the Holy Bull (Grade 2) by 5 lengths over
Conquest Titan in the fast time of 1:42.16.

On Feb. 1st, Wildcat Red won the seven-furlong Hutcheson (Grade 3) by 4 lengths
over C. Zee.

On Feb. 22nd, Wildcat Red and General a Rod raced head-to-head almost the entire
way for 1 1/16 miles. Wildcat Red won by a head, in 1:41.85.

Spot won the seven-furlong Swale Stakes (Grade 3) at Gulfstream on March 1st.
The winner of the Florida Derby will earn 100 qualifying points for the May 3rd.

Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum Brands (gr. I). Second through fourth place
will be worth 40, 20 and 10 points.

Wildcat Red has 50 points, virtually assuring him a spot in the 20-horse field
at Churchill Downs. General a Rod has 20 points and Cairo Prince has 14. A Florida Derby finish of third or better should enable either to make the Kentucky Derby field.

None of the other four Florida Derby probables have any Kentucky Derby qualifying points.

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