A major qualifier worth a combined 170 points, the Florida Derby (G1) has produced two of the last five winners of the Kentucky Derby, and the top three finishers from Saturday’s edition will have the points to make a 20-horse field on May 1.
Here are three Florida Derby takeaways.
Known Agenda breaks through
Known Agenda put it all together on Saturday, rallying to a 2 3/4-length decision, and secured a Kentucky Derby berth in the process. Irad Ortiz Jr. was up on the St. Elias Stable homebred Curlin colt for two-time Kentucky Derby winner Todd Pletcher.
After recording a troubled third in the Remsen S. (G3) last August, Known Agenda entered the year as a well-regarded prospect, but things didn’t go as expected when returning as the 3-2 favorite in the Sam F. Davis S. (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs.
The chestnut dropped too far off the early pace, closing belatedly to be a non-threatening fifth, and the disappointing performance forced connections to regroup. Known Agenda dropped down to entry-level allowance company for his next start, and he got back on track with an impressive 11-length romp in late February.
Known Agenda displayed improved positional speed in the allowance, and he settled into a favorable stalking trip in the Florida Derby, a few lengths back in fifth after the opening half-mile. Ortiz asked for run nearing the conclusion of the far turn, angling to the three path as they began to straighten for home, and Known Agenda powered his way to the front.
Up by about a length with a furlong remaining, Known Agenda drifted a couple of times while drawing away to the wire. He registered a career-best 101 Brisnet Speed rating.
Known Agenda is a candidate to keep building upon the breakout performance at Churchill Downs.
Soup and Sandwich, Greatest Honour settle for minor awards
Making his stakes debut and third lifetime start, Soup and Sandwich was headstrong during the early stages as John Velazquez tried to relax the speedy colt. The gray Into Mischief colt forged his way to a short lead on the backstretch, dueled through the far turn with another rival, and determinedly saved second after being passed by Known Agenda despite racing on the wrong lead through the stretch.
Out of a Tapit mare, the Florida-bred sophomore is still learning for Mark Casse. Soup and Sandwich was green posting a front-running allowance win in his previous outing at Tampa Bay Downs, and he has room for further improvement after a commendable showing in the Florida Derby.
Casse anticipates a better showing on Derby Day, and Soup and Sandwich is eligible to be pace presence from the break.
After winning the Fountain of Youth S. (G2) and Holy Bull S. (G3), Greatest Honour came up empty as the 4-5 favorite in the Florida Derby. He saved ground nearly every step of the way with Jose Ortiz, who appeared determined to take as much kickback as possible, and it certainly wasn’t the trip many expected.
The Tapit colt was kept well off the rail most of the way in the Holy Bull, and Greatest Honour did not handle being inside of horses on the far turn of the Fountain of Youth, losing positioning until being angled outside into the clear.
Shug McGaughey was asked about the Florida Derby trip.
“I’d have rather had a position a little closer and on the outside,” the Hall of Fame trainer said.
Greatest Honour figures to take the overland route at Churchill Downs.
Doubts surround Florida contingent
Horses prepping in Florida have recorded top three finishes in the last five runnings of the Kentucky Derby, but the streak could be in jeopardy this year.
This doesn’t appear to be a strong year for Florida-based Kentucky Derby contenders.
The top three from the Florida Derby could still have something to offer, and I wouldn’t throw any out simply because they competed in the Sunshine State, but Florida prep races have lacked depth this season.