As one of the two sports Floridians can legally bet on, Florida has an incredibly healthy horse racing industry.
However, horse racing fans and bettors are shifting their attention to Kentucky. The 149th annual Kentucky Derby is just a couple of weeks away, with the game’s most prestigious race scheduled for May 6.
As many start handicapping the field in Louisville, Florida horse racing bettors will see quite a few names they know.
The official Kentucky Derby lineup won’t be posted until Monday. But among the horses listed as probable for the race, four are regulars at Florida racetracks.
Sunshine State bettors can wager on the Kentucky Derby at the state’s pari-mutuel facilities. Or at home with one of the available online racebooks. Two of the most popular apps, TVG and FanDuel Racing, serve the Florida market.
Florida Derby winner is the early favorite
Florida’s biggest race of the year is the Florida Derby. It’s held in April at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach and has one of the biggest purses in the sport.
Furthermore, winning it automatically qualifies the horse for the Run for the Roses.
This year, Forte won the seven-figure prize after an incredible charge down the homestretch. He overtook several competitors during the final leg of the race. It was his second win of 2023 in as many tires.
Forte is a three-year-old colt trained by Todd Pletcher. He began racing competitively about a year ago but only ran at Gulfstream Park in 2023.
Last year, Forte competed five times and won four of them. He competed at some of the more well-known tracks, including Belmont Park, Saratoga and Keeneland.
He typically posts Beyer Speed Figures in the upper 90s and low 100s. Anything over 100 is considered incredibly fast.
Forte is far and away the favorite for this year’s Kentucky Derby. He’s currently listed at 3-1.
Three other Gulfstream Park regulars will likely be at the Derby
Aside from Forte, a handful of Florida horses are slated to be in Louisville next month. Well, they are Florida horses because they typically race at Gulfstream Park.
All three were bred in Kentucky, as was Forte. Here’s a look at the other Gulfstream Park products in the Kentucky Derby.
Like Forte, this three-year-old colt is also trained by Todd Pletcher and had unbelievable success in Florida.
Tapit Trice won a 1-mile race at Gulfstream Park in February. Then, he followed that up with a win at the Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs in March. Lastly, he won the 2023 G1 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland earlier this month.
In total, Tapit Trice has raced five times dating back to his first race in November 2022. He won four of those races and, aside from the first race of his career, posted Beyer Speed Figures of at least 95. He posted a 102 during his latest victory.
This horse was just inches away from a Florida Derby title. But Forte’s memorable final leg robbed the Gustavo Delago-trained colt of the title.
However, he is still new to the racing world. He has just three competitive races under his belt, all of which came at Gulfstream Park.
Mage won his first-ever competition in a 7-furlong race in January. He followed that up with a fourth in the G2 Fountain of Youth and a runner-up in the Florida Derby. Mage posted speed figures of more than 100 in two of his three attempts.
Of the Florida horses likely to be in the Derby, Rocket Can’s resume is one of the lengthier ones. Trained by William Mott, he began competing last August and has seven races under his belt.
But his results aren’t as consistent as the others in this group. He has two wins, two seconds, a fourth, a fifth and a seventh.
On the bright side for Rocket Can fans, his worst results came at the start of his career. He won the G3 Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park in February and was runner-up to Forte at the Fountain of Youth in March.
However, his speed figures are significantly lower than Mage, Tapit Trice and Forte.