Racing News

Constitution confirmed for Florida Derby

  • Constitution has been favored in both wins (Bob Coglianese/Adam Coglianese Photography)

Constitution will make his stakes debut in the $1 million Florida Derby on March 29. Unraced at two, the Todd Pletcher-trained colt has captured both starts this winter at Gulfstream Park.

"He's doing very well and we're planning to run him in the Florida Derby," Pletcher said. "It was really just a matter of picking out which race we were going to run in. I think he's been very impressive in both of his starts, so it was just a matter of trying to pick the correct Derby prep for him. This time of year they're all competitive."

The 1 1/8-mile Florida Derby, Gulfstream's signature race, carries a total of 170 qualifying points for the May 3 Kentucky Derby, with 100 to the winner.

Owned by WinStar Farm and Twin Creeks Racing Stable, Constitution made his debut in a seven-furlong maiden race on January 11, winning by a length after hesitating at the start. The gray son of Tapit returned with a front-running victory in a 1 1/16-mile optional claiming allowance on the undercard of the Fountain of Youth February 22.

Meet-leading jockey Javier Castellano was aboard for both races and will retain the mount in the Florida Derby.

Based at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream's satellite training facility in Palm Beach County, Constitution had his first work since the most recent win on March 8, going four furlongs in 50 3/5.

Among the horses headed to the Florida Derby are Holy Bull  and Nashua winner Cairo Prince, Hutcheson and Fountain of Youth winner Wildcat Red, and Gulfstream Park Derby winner General a Rod.

"We just felt like he's home, he's two-for-two over the track, and even though it looks to be a very tough race with Cairo Prince pointing for it, we felt like it was the right spot for him," Pletcher said. "He's passed every test so far, but this will certainly be the biggest test he's had."

Pletcher is also thinking Florida Derby with another Tapit colt, Alto Racing's Anchor Down. Like Constitution he went unraced as a juvenile and has won each of his two starts at Gulfstream this winter, a six-furlong maiden event on the Holy Bull undercard January 25 and a seven-furlong optional claiming allowance on March 1.

"We're in a similar position with Anchor Down," Pletcher said. "He's run twice, and he's two-for-two. We're looking to stretch him out in a Derby prep. We haven't decided which one it's going to be, but the Florida Derby is under consideration for him, as well."

Undefeated multiple graded stakes winner Onlyforyou is expected to come back in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks on the Florida Derby undercard, Pletcher said. He is also considering Dame Dorothy, Get Lucky, In Tune, My Miss Sophia and Stopchargingmaria for the nine-furlong Oaks.

"There's races in New Orleans (Fair Grounds) that day and Aqueduct the following week, so we'll see how everyone's doing," Pletcher said, "but Onlyforyou is definitely headed that way."

Champagne winner and Breeders' Cup Juvenile runner-up Havana, program favorite for the seven-furlong Swale at Gulfstream on March 1, is progressing well after being scratched the morning of the race with a quarter crack in his right front foot.

"His foot looks good. We've got him back under tack, and we hope to maybe be back on the work tab next week," Pletcher said. "It healed up well; we just didn't want to rush things and make sure we get it right. As far as quarter cracks go, it was a pretty minor one."

Havana will continue to train at Palm Meadows and could make his next start in the Grade 3 Bay Shore at Aqueduct on April 5.