February 21, 2024

Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher has won the Florida Derby (G1) a record six situations, a mark probably to broaden to 7 if Forte  runs as anticipated in the $1 million race April 1 at Gulfstream Park.

Last year’s winner 2-year-aged male and a apparent-cut early favored for the Kentucky Derby (G1) just after a trendy earn in the March 4 Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream, Forte is the 4-5 early morning-line selection in the Florida Derby in opposition to 11 rivals heading 1 1/8 miles.

The Florida Derby has been the most productive prep in Kentucky Derby historical past, generating 24 winners of the Operate for the Roses, and offers qualifying points toward the Kentucky Derby on a 100-40-30-20-10 scale to its prime-five finishers.

Not that Forte desires any of those. He already has 90 qualifying details toward the Derby, producing it quick more than enough to secure entry. Churchill Downs officials use qualifying details as a choice process when the Derby overfills further than its 20-horse maximum industry dimensions.

Pletcher, who stables his greatest horses in South Florida in the course of the winter season and early spring, has Forte on a identical path as his 2017 Kentucky Derby winner, Always Dreaming  . That colt took the Florida Derby on his way to Kentucky Derby accomplishment, when Pletcher’s original Derby winner in 2010, Tremendous Saver  , prepped with a third in the Tampa Bay Derby (G3) and a 2nd in the Arkansas Derby (G1).

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“We love the positioning of the Florida Derby five months out. We are content about that. It gives us a small much more time to continue to be in Florida before we ship north and with any luck , have a pair a lot more months of fantastic weather ahead of we have to have to transfer up,” Pletcher reported. “The Florida Derby on its very own is a pretty significant race. Traditionally, it is really been a stallion-building race and an critical grade 1 on any horse’s resume.”

Irad Ortiz Jr., who piloted Recognised Agenda   to victory in the 2021 race, when Pletcher last gained the Florida Derby, returns in the irons aboard Forte. He has been aboard Forte in all six of his begins, 5 of which resulted in triumphs in a maiden race, the Hopeful Stakes (G1), the Breeders’ Futurity (G1), Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), and Fountain of Youth.

In capturing the latter race, he savored a easy trip, ranking a few of lengths off the early pace in fifth in advance of launching a huge bid on the second switch and overpowering the opposition. The Violence   colt strike the finish line 4 1/2 lengths in entrance of Holy Bull Stakes (G3) winner Rocket Can , performing so with plenty in reserve.

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Pletcher explained, “As impressively as he’s won a pair of these races, he’s kind of arrive to the wire with his ears up getting everything in. Clearly, as these races get a small far more tough, he’ll require to keep targeted.”

Forte breaks from put up 11 in the Florida Derby, leaving the opportunity for a extensive journey.

Rocket Can does not return in the Florida Derby, with trainer Bill Mott pointing him for the April 1 Arkansas Derby (G1), but three other individuals from the Fountain of Youth—Cyclone Mischief , Mage , and Il Miracolo —are back again for an additional crack at Forte. 

Must the complete lineup of 12 continue to be intact, the Florida Derby could be the greatest given that Major Brown   conquer 11 rivals in 2008.

Cyclone Mischief, owned by Albaugh Family Stables and Castleton Lyons and properly trained by Dale Romans, established the pace in the Fountain of Youth, holding the guide until midstretch, ahead of weakening in the remaining furlong. He concluded 3rd, a duration in front of a extensive-racing Mage in fourth. A winner of two of six starts, Cyclone Mishief, an Into Mischief   colt, rebounded from a disappointing seventh-location end in the Holy Bull right after a rapid allowance optional proclaiming triumph at Gulfstream in his initial commence at age 3.

The inexperienced Mage, a son of Superior Magic  , ran competitively with the leap into graded stakes enterprise soon after a debut maiden victory, in spite of an awkward crack and large excursion. He races for OGMA Investments, Ramiro Restrepo, Sterling Racing, and CMNWLTH, and is skilled by Gustavo Delgado.

Invading from the West Coast to race is Fort Bragg , whose connections made a decision to withdraw him from the March 26 Sunland Derby (G3) in favor of the Florida Derby. The son of Tapit   is coming off a fifth-spot complete in the March 4 San Felipe (G2) at Santa Anita Park in his 3-12 months-old debut. 

Also off the board in his 1st start out of the yr was Dubyuhnell , who ran sixth in the Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs this winter season. Final slide, he wrapped up his 2-12 months-aged season with a earn in the Remsen Stakes (G2) in New York.

Fort Bragg and Dubyuhnell are the 2nd and third choices on the early morning line at odds of 5-1 and 6-1, respectively.