Florida Derby

The Derby Trail continues with a stop at Gulfstream Park this Saturday for the Florida Derby.  In recent history, no KD Prep-Race has produced more Kentucky Derby Winners than this Grade 1, Million Dollar Contest.

MONARCHOS (2001), BARBARO (2006), BIG BROWN (2008), ORB (2013), NYQUIST (2016), and ALWAYS DREAMING (2017) all used their Florida Derby triumphs as springboards to glory on the first Saturday in May, so if you’re looking for a horse who can contend for victory this May 4th at Churchill Downs, the FD is a great place to start.

But first, you need to find the Florida Derby Winner, preferably before the race is run so that you can fully capitalize on your opinion from a wagering perspective.  Examining the history of the FD can point out trends and tendencies which help us identify the type of horse most likely to succeed in Gulfstream’s signature Derby Prep-Race.

With that said, let’s sift through the data and see what kind of info we come up with.

Any Running Style Can Prevail  

Over the last 10 years, the FD has been remarkably fair to all types of running styles.  Three editions have been Won by front-runners, two by pace trackers, two by mid-pack closers, and three by deep closers.  The early fractions tend to be the determining factor in this regard; the three Florida Derbys won by deep closers not surprisingly featured the three fastest half-mile fractions.

Short-Priced Contenders Usually Win, But Favorites Can Be Beaten

In a rather unusual trend, eight of the last 10 FD winners started at 3-1 or less, but only one (AUDIBLE at 6-5) was the betting favorite.  That’s because the Florida Derby typically features two or three standout contenders, with bettors frequently emphasizing the wrong one, allowing the second or third choice to win at a short price.

Todd Pletcher and John Velazquez Win More Often Than Not  

Gulfstream’s perennial leading trainer Todd Pletcher has won the FD five times, including four of the last five years (2018, 2017, 2015, 2014).  The reason he didn’t win in 2016 was because he didn’t have a starter, so he’s actually won the last four Florida Derbys in which he has entered a horse.

Even more impressive, jockey John Velazquez has ridden in seven of the last 10 Florida Derbys, Winning five times while finishing second and third in the others.  Now there’s a fantastic streak of success!

Local Runners Have Dominated

Almost without exception, the top finishers in recent Florida Derbys had previously run at Gulfstream Park.  Of the 30 horses to have finished in the FD Trifecta over the last 10 years, 25 were coming out of a race at GP, including nine of the 10 winners.  The only shipper to Win the FD during that time-frame was the champion 2-year-old NYQUIST.

The remaining four non-Gulfstream runners to crack the Florida Derby Trifecta over the last 10 years all entered off of a Prep-Race run at Tampa Bay Downs, another Florida track that runs during the winter.


Todd Pletcher might not have a FD starter this year, in which case the race could be more wide open than usual.

Strictly based on history, you have to respect the chances of CODE OF HONOR, who rallied from mid-pack to win the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream under jockey John Velazquez.  He’ll be well regarded in the wagering (see favorite) and generally fits the historical profile of a Florida Derby winner.

But, (when seeking Value) it would be unwise to count out horses stepping up in class from an Allowance or listed Stakes Race, since these types have won five of the last 10 Florida Derbys.

On Wednesday the Daily Racing Blog will take a look at the entries for this years contest along with Morning Line odds.  So be sure to stop back.


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