Florida Derby

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Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park

Florida Derby | Results | HistoryContenders | Prep Races | Handicapping | Winners

Florida Derby Race Facts

  • Location: Gulfstream Park, Hallandale Beach, FL
  • Inaugural Race: 1952
  • Current Distance: 1 1/8 miles (9 furlongs)
  • Track Type: Left-Handed Dirt
  • Age Qualifications: Three-year-olds
  • Status: Grade 1
  • 2021 Purse: $1,000,000
  • 2021 Race Date: Saturday, March 27th

The Florida Derby is the main Kentucky Derby prep race at Gulfstream Park in South Florida. Held at 1 1/8 miles, the prestigious event takes place at the end of March or early April, five weeks before the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in May.

2021 Florida Derby Results

POSTHORSEJOCKEY / TRAINERWIN / PLACE / SHOW
5Known AgendaIrad Ortiz, Jr. / Todd A. Pletcher$12.80 / $6.60 / $3.20
8Soup and SandwichJohn R. Velazquez / Mark E. Casse$8.60 / $3.80
7Greatest HonourJose L. Ortiz / Claude R. McGaughey III$2.10
1Nova RagsJunior Alvarado / William I. Mott
9CollaborateTyler Gaffalione / Saffie A. Joseph, Jr.
4Southern PassageCorey J. Lanerie / Dale L. Romans
11PapetuEmisael Jaramillo / Antonio Sano
10SpielbergJavier Castellano / Bob Baffert
2Quantum LeapMiguel Angel Vasquez / Ian R. Wilkes
3JirafalesEdgard J. Zayas / Gustavo Delgado
6SigilosoLeonel Reyes / Antonio Sano

Exotic Payoffs:

  • $2.00 Exacta (5-8) Paid: $63.90
  • $0.50 Trifecta (5-8-7) Paid: $73.60
  • $0.10 Superfecta (5-8-7-1) Paid: $80.88

Watch the 2021 Florida Derby

History of the Florida Derby

Inaugurated at Gulfstream Park in 1952, the 1 1/8-mile Florida Derby is not only one of the premier prep races for the Kentucky Derby, but has proven to be a prestigious prize in its own right. For more than six decades, it has yielded numerous Triple Crown race winners, champions, and eventual Hall of Fame inductees.

Needles (1956) was the first Florida Derby winner to go on and win the Kentucky Derby, an especially poignant victory as the colt was foaled in Florida and gave a boost to the state’s then-fledgling breeding industry.

Tim Tam (1958), Carry Back (1961), Northern Dancer (1964), Forward Pass (1968), Spectacular Bid (1979), Swale (1984), Unbridled (1990), Thunder Gulch (1995), Monarchos (2001), Barbaro (2005), Big Brown (2008), Orb (2013), Nyquist (2016), and Always Dreaming (2017) all followed in Needles’ hoofsteps by winning both the Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby.

Other notable Florida Derby winners include Hall of Famers Nashua (1955), Alydar (1978), and Holy Bull (1994), and classic winners Bally Ache (1960), Candy Spots (1963), Snow Chief (1986), and Empire Maker (2003).

Florida Derby winners who won divisional championships at age two or in the sprinting category include Top Knight (1969), Honest Pleasure (1976), Plugged Nickle (1980), Lord Avie (1981), and Fly So Free (1991).

Bill Shoemaker, Bill Hartack, Jerry Bailey, Mike Smith, Edgar Prado, and John Velazquez – all Hall of Fame jockeys – are tied with three Florida Derby wins apiece. Smith, Prado, and Velazquez are active riders and have an opportunity to possess the record outright in the coming years.

Hall of Fame trainers Nick Zito and John Veitch, along with Todd Pletcher, own the record for most Florida Derby wins with three apiece. Veitch’s winners include Proud Truth (1985), the first Florida Derby winner to go on and win the Breeders’ Cup Classic, and Alydar, who gave Calumet Farm a record fifth triumph in the race.

Calumet’s first Florida Derby score came in 1957 when Gen. Duke set a still-standing stakes record of 1:46 4/5 for the nine-furlong distance.

The largest margin of victory in race history was 9 3/4 lengths set by Empire Maker. The largest win payoff was $183.60 set by Williamstown Kid (1966).

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.

Florida Derby Prep Races

The Florida Derby is the final in a four-race series for three-year-olds at Gulfstream Park. The prestigious event is held at 1 1/8 miles.

The first race in the series was previously known as the Gulfstream Park Derby (renamed the Mucho Macho Man for 2015). It typically takes place on or near New Year’s Day at a mile.

Next up is the Holy Bull Stakes, a Grade 2 event. It takes place at the end of January and stretches sophomores out to 1 1/16 miles.

The Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes stays at the same 8 1/2-furlong distance and is contested four weeks after the Holy Bull.

The series culminates in the 1 1/8-mile Florida Derby at the end of March or early April. It is itself a major prep for the 1 1/4-mile Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs and is worth points on a 100-40-20-10 scale to the top four respective finishers as part of the Championship Series of races on the Road to the Kentucky Derby.

While the Holy Bull and Fountain of Youth are preps for the Florida Derby, they also award points to the top four finishers (10-4-2-1 and 50-20-10-5, respectively) in the Road to the Kentucky Derby series.

Handicapping the Florida Derby

As a major race on the Kentucky Derby trail, handicapping the Florida Derby involves two basic judgment calls: first, which of the proven stakes horses are most likely to benefit from the 1 1/8-mile distance, and second, do any of the up-and-comers look good enough to handle the biggest class test of their careers?

The logical starting point is to evaluate the horses who have already been knocking heads in the 1 1/16-mile preps at Gulfstream Park, the Holy Bull and Fountain of Youth. Top performers in these events generally do well over the extra half-furlong of the Florida Derby.

But because of Gulfstream’s track configuration, 1 1/16-mile races end at the sixteenth pole, not the regular finish line. Hence sprinter types might find it easier to carry their speed through a short stretch run in races like the Holy Bull and Fountain of Youth. In the Florida Derby, however, they could be vulnerable over the complete length of the stretch.

Gulfstream has typically played friendly to speed and stalkers rather than deep closers. Yet a race overloaded with early speed could end up playing into the hands of a classy closer, so as always, try to envision how the pace scenario shapes up.

Another factor to consider is whether a horse is making the second or third start off a holiday. Some Triple Crown aspirants may just be rounding into form now after their winter break. If so, they’re eligible to turn the tables on busier rivals who had a race-fitness edge in an earlier prep.

Given the depth of the sophomore class at Gulfstream, there’s usually at least one key allowance race every meet that is stakes-caliber in quality. Horses who’ve caught the eye in such a salty event are capable of rapid progress at this time of year. For an objective measure of how they stack up, compare the BRIS Speed ratings for the allowances and the stakes. 

Past Winners of the Florida Derby

YearWinnerJockey / TrainerTime
2021Known AgendaIrad Ortiz, Jr. / Todd A. Pletcher1:49.45
2020Tiz the LawManny Franco / Barclay Tagg01:50.0
2019Maximum SecurityLuis Saez / Jason Servis01:48.9
2018AudibleJohn R. Velazquez / Todd Pletcher01:49.5
2017Always DreamingJohn R. Velazquez / Todd Pletcher01:47.5
2016NyquistMario Gutierrez / Doug O'Neill01:49.1
2015MaterialityJohn R. Velazquez / Todd Pletcher01:52.3
2014ConstitutionJavier Castellano / Todd Pletcher01:49.2
2013OrbJohn Velazquez / C. R. McGaughey III01:50.9
2012Take Charge IndyCalvin Borel / Patrick B. Byrne01:48.8
2011Dialed InJulien Leparoux / Nick Zito01:50.7
2010Ice BoxJose Lezcano / Nick Zito01:49.2
2009Quality RoadJohn Velazquez / James A. Jerkens01:47.7
2008Big BrownKent Desormeaux / Richard E. Dutrow Jr.01:48.2
2007Scat DaddyEdgar Prado / Todd A. Pletcher01:49.0
2006BarbaroEdgar Prado / Michael Matz01:49.0
2005High FlyJerry Bailey / Nick Zito01:49.4
2004Friends LakeRichard Migliore / John C. Kimmel01:51.4
2003Empire MakerJerry Bailey / Robert Frankel01:49.1
2002Harlan's HolidayEdgar Prado / Kenneth McPeek01:48.8
2001MonarchosJorge Chavez / John T. Ward Jr.01:50.0
2000Hal's HopeRoger Velez / Harold J. Rose01:51.5
1999VicarShane Sellers / Carl Nafzger01:50.8
1998Cape Town †Shane Sellers / D. Wayne Lukas01:49.2
1997Captain BodgitAlex Solis / Gary Capuano01:50.6
1996Unbridled's SongMike Smith / James T. Ryerson01:47.8
1995Thunder GulchMike Smith / D. Wayne Lukas01:49.7
1994Holy BullMike Smith / Warren A. Croll Jr.01:47.7
1993Bull Inthe HeatherWigberto Ramos / Howard M. Tesher01:51.4
1992TechnologyJerry Bailey / Hubert Hine01:50.7
1991Fly So FreeJosé A. Santos / Scotty Schulhofer01:50.4
1990UnbridledPat Day / Carl Nafzger01:52.0
1989Mercedes WonEarlie Fires / Arnold Fink01:49.6
1988Brian's TimeRandy Romero / John M. Veitch01:49.8
1987CryptoclearanceJosé A. Santos / Scotty Schulhofer01:49.6
1986Snow ChiefAlex Solis / Melvin F. Stute01:51.8
1985Proud TruthJorge Velásquez / John M. Veitch01:50.0
1984SwaleLaffit Pincay Jr. / Woody Stephens01:47.6
1983CroesoFrank Olivares / Stephen A. DiMauro01:49.8
1982Timely WriterJeffrey Fell / Dominic Imprescia01:49.6
1981Lord AvieChris McCarron / Daniel Perlsweig01:50.4
1980Plugged NickleBuck Thornburg / Thomas J. Kelly01:50.2
1979Spectacular BidRonnie Franklin / Bud Delp01:48.8
1978AlydarJorge Velásquez / John M. Veitch01:47.0
1977 (1)Ruthie's NativeCraig Perret / Eugene Jacobs01:50.2
1977 (2)Coined SilverBuck Thornburg / George T. Poole III01:48.8
1976Honest PleasureBraulio Baeza / LeRoy Jolley01:47.8
1975Prince Thou ArtBraulio Baeza / Lou Rondinello01:50.4
1974JudgerLaffit Pincay Jr. / Woody Stephens01:49.0
1973Royal and RegalWalter Blum / Warren A. Croll Jr.01:47.4
1972Upper CaseRon Turcotte / Lucien Laurin01:50.0
1971Eastern FleetEddie Maple / Reggie Cornell01:47.4
1970My Dad GeorgeRay Broussard / Frank J. McManus01:50.8
1969Top KnightManuel Ycaza / Raymond F. Metcalf01:48.4
1968Forward PassDon Brumfield / Henry Forrest01:49.0
1967In RealityEarlie Fires / Melvin Calvert01:50.2
1966Williamston Kid †Robert Stevenson / James Bartlett01:50.6
1965Native ChargerJohn L. Rotz / Raymond F. Metcalf01:51.2
1964Northern DancerBill Shoemaker / Horatio Luro01:50.8
1963Candy SpotsBill Shoemaker / Mesh Tenney01:50.6
1962RidanManuel Ycaza / LeRoy Jolley01:50.4
1961Carry BackJohnny Sellers / Jack A. Price01:48.8
1960Bally AcheBobby Ussery / Homer Pitt01:47.6
1959Easy SpurBill Hartack / Paul L. Kelley01:47.2
1958Tim TamBill Hartack / Horace A. Jones01:49.2
1957Gen. DukeBill Hartack / Horace A. Jones01:46.8
1956NeedlesDavid Erb / Hugh L. Fontaine01:48.6
1955NashuaEddie Arcaro / Jim Fitzsimmons01:53.2
1954CorrelationBill Shoemaker / Noble Threewitt01:55.2
1953Money BrokerAlfred Popara / Vester R. Wright01:53.8
1952Sky ShipRonnie Nash / Preston M. Burch01:50.8