Kentucky Derby contenders Get Big Race At Florida Derby

Written By Darren Cooper on March 31, 2022 - Last Updated on May 25, 2022
Florida Derby Attracts Contenders

It’s Derby Weekend in Florida.

The 2022 Florida Derby returns to Gulfstream Park on Saturday, April 2. The post-time is expected around 6:40 p.m. It will be part of a one-hour broadcast on CNBC.

The Kentucky Derby, known as the ‘Run for the Roses’ in the racing world, gets underway in five weeks. It’s one of the most important races on the calendar. However, the Florida Derby is an important tune-up for the race in Louisville.

It could easily be argued that it is one of the most challenging of all the prep races. As a result, 15 horses took home the Florida Derby title and went on to win the Kentucky Derby. It’s more than any other race part of the official Road to the Kentucky Derby. Gulfstream first ran the derby in 1952.

However, in a historical twist, no Florida Derby winner has ever come through to win the Triple Crown. But several came close.

Last year’s winner was Known Agenda. He finished ninth at Churchill Downs in the Kentucky Derby and fourth in the Belmont Stakes.

The early look at the field

The field for mile-and-a-eighth races is still coming together but is expected to be a deep field with champions who can go the distance.

Expect to hear a lot about Simplification, who has made a home at Gulfstream Park, winning the Mucho Macho Man Stakes and the Fountain of Youth.

Charge It is expected to be in the field. He’s trained by legendary Todd Pletcher, who put more Florida Derby horses in the winner’s circle than anyone else in horse racing history.

Classic Causeway has a pedigree and victories in the Sam F. Davis Stakes and the Tampa Bay Derby.

White Abarrio is a question mark after battling an illness earlier this month. He is expected to race and is undefeated in three starts at Gulfstream.

The early odds have each horse listed as 10-1. Follow the link provided to find out more about online horse betting in Florida, and betting on the Kentucky Derby.

A champion of sunshine, but not the triple crown

The history of horses winning both the Florida and Kentucky Derby dates back to 1956, when Needles won both races but then lost in the Preakness before winning the Belmont.

It’s almost as if Needles cursed the field. No Florida Derby champion in history was able to complete the Triple Crown with a victory at the Belmont.

In 1958, Tim Tam, one of the most incredible horses of all time, won both Derbies, then the Preakness but broke a bone during the running of the Belmont.

Carry Back was on track to win the Triple Crown in 1961, but he was pulled up late in the Belmont and defeated.

In 1964, Northern Dancer won Florida. Then he set a record for the fastest Kentucky Derby time in history. His 2-minute record stood until some horse named Secretariat came along. He won the Preakness, challenged in the Belmont before fading to third.

Forward Pass made a run in 1968. He won the Florida Derby, then the roses and the Preakness. He lost in the Belmont by one and a quarter length.

Perhaps the most infamous Florida Derby champion of them all was Spectacular Bid in 1979. He rolled to wins in Florida, Kentucky, and the Preakness. As the legend goes, he stepped on a safety pin in his stall at the Belmont and was unable to close the race strong.

The last official Florida Derby winner to win the Kentucky Derby was Big Brown in 2008. He dominated at both Churchill Downs and Pimlico but suffered a cracked hoof and had to be eased in his bid at the Belmont.

Can maximum security win the Florida Derby again?

The Jason Servis/Bob Baffert trained Maximum Security was the talk of the horse racing world in 2019. He won the Florida Derby by three-and-a-half lengths, instantly qualifying for the Kentucky Derby.

At Churchill Downs, Maximum Security set the early pace but went wide from the rail while in the lead. He crossed the finish line first in 2:03.93 but was disqualified for impeding the progress of other horses.

He was/is the only horse to cross the finish line first at the Kentucky Derby but be disqualified for an on-track infraction.

A day at the Florida Derby

It’s the biggest day for racing in South Florida.

In addition to the Curlin Florida Derby, there is a full card of racing at Gulfstream Park, including the Gulfstream Park Oaks for three-year-old fillies and the Pan American Stakes over a mile-and-a-half for four-year-olds and up.

Ticket information is available here.


Photo by Associated Press Photo / Matt Slocum
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Darren Cooper

Darren Cooper was born and raised in Southern Louisiana, just a short pirogue ride away from New Orleans. He started his journalism career at the New Orleans Times-Picayune and has been a writer and columnist in New Jersey since 1998. He's won 14 statewide press awards and earned his first Associated Press Sports Editors Top 10 award in 2022.

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