Florida Derby Contenders
Contenders for the Florida Derby typically emerge from the local three-year-old scene at Gulfstream Park. While the most productive route is through the series of stakes leading up to the meet's highlight, key allowance races have also proven a path to success.
The most significant stepping stone is the Fountain of the Youth, the final prep ahead of the Florida Derby. Seven of the last 16 Florida Derby winners were exiting the Fountain of Youth, and four of them -- High Fly (2005), Scat Daddy (2007), Quality Road (2009) and Orb (2013) -- won both races.
Three other Florida Derby winners in this time frame skipped the Fountain of Youth, but had competed in the previous prep, the Holy Bull. Most notable on this list are Barbaro (2006) and Dialed In (2011), who both won the Holy Bull. Barbaro rested in between, but Dialed In used an allowance as his interim port of call en route to the Florida Derby.
Up-and-coming sophomores have likewise catapulted themselves into the Florida Derby picture by way of allowance races at Gulfstream. Monarchos (2001) and Big Brown (2008) impressed versus lesser before taking the Florida Derby in their stakes debut, and interestingly, both later won the Kentucky Derby as well. Constitution had a similar profile in 2014, only to be knocked off the trail subsequently by injury.
Since 2000, only one shipper has beaten the Florida-based contingent -- the highly-regarded Empire Maker, who invaded from California in 2003.