Ranking The Best Horse Racing Events In Florida

Written By JR Duren on February 16, 2022 - Last Updated on August 15, 2022
The Best Ranked Racing Events In Florida

Win. Place. Show. If you’re placing a racing bet in Florida, those are the three most well-known you can make right now in the Sunshine State.

And while you can bet on horse racing from your phone, there’s nothing quite like taking in the action (and wagering on horses) trackside at one of Florida’s six horse racing tracks.

BetMGM offers a horse-racing sportsbook that Floridians can use for horse betting in Florida and around the country. You can also use advanced-deposit wagering platforms such as TVG.

#1: Florida Derby, Gulfstream Park

The Curlin Florida Derby is a Grade 1 race with a purse of $750,000. The race is open to 3-year-olds and is run at 1 1/8 miles. The race’s claim to fame is that it’s part of the official “Road to Kentucky Derby” prep-race circuit.

Over the past 25 years, six horses who’ve won the Florida Derby have also won the Kentucky Derby:

  • Always Dreaming (2017)
  • Nyquist (2016)
  • Orb (2013)
  • Big Brown (2008)
  • Barbaro (2006)
  • Monarchos (2001)

None of the winners of the Florida Derby have gone on to win the Triple Crown. Big Brown came close in 2008. The speedy horse won the Florida Derby by five lengths. Afterward, jockey Kent Desormeaux had high praise for the horse.

“Riding him was like bounding through a meadow,” Desormeaux said. “He’s a major talent; possibly the best horse I’ve ridden. I thought that after the first time I rode him. I’d have to say that he’s my (Kentucky) Derby horse.”

This year’s Florida Derby takes place on Saturday, April 2.

#2: The Pegasus World Cup, Gulfstream Park

While the Florida Derby may claim the distinction of being Florida’s best horse racing event, the Pegasus is close behind. It’s a Grade 1 race but the purse is significantly larger than the Florid Derby: $3 million total, to be exact.

The race was launched six years ago as a way to modernize the sport and make it appealing to younger fans. It’s attracted numerous Alist celebrities, including Jennifer Lopez, Snoop Dogg, Lenny Kratvitz, Vin Diesel, and Marc Ronson.

The race is just as much a style and entertainment spectacle as it is a thoroughbred affair, but what happens on the track is thoroughly exciting. The Pegasus features a dirt invitational, a turf invitational, and a Filly and Mare turf race.

The 2022 Pegasus hero was Life Is Good, while the turf winner was Colonel Liam (who won that race for the second straight year).

#3: Tampa Bay Derby, Tampa Bay Downs

The Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs is, like the Florida Derby, one of the prep races in the “Road to Kentucky Derby” circuit. The purse of the 1 1/16-mile race is $400,000.

Over the past 25 years, one horse has that won the Tampa Bay Downs went on to win the Kentucky Derby: Street Sense in 2007, ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Calvin Borel.

The race offers 50 qualification points for the Kentucky Derby, which is typically enough to get a horse into the big race at Churchill Downs.

The 2022 Tampa Bay Derby takes place on Saturday, March 12.

#4: Fountain of Youth, Gulfstream Park

Gulfstream’s third race to make it on this list, the Fountain of Youth boasts a $300,000 purse and is yet another race prep race for the Kentucky Derby. Like the Tampa Bay Derby, the Fountain of Youth awards 50 qualification points to the winner. Essentially, the horse that wins the race punches its ticket to the Kentucky Derby.

Over the past 25 years, only one horse (Orb, 2013) has won both the Fountain of Youth and the Kentucky Derby. In 1995, however, Thunder Gulch won the Fountain of Youth, the Florida Derby, the Kentucky Derby, and the Belmont Stakes, making him one of the most decorated winners of the race.

The 2022 Fountain of Youth takes place on Saturday, March 5.

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JR Duren

J.R. Duren has covered the gambling beats for more than a dozen states for Catena Media since 2015. His past reporting experience includes two years at the Villages Daily Sun, and he is a first-place winner at the Florida Press Club Excellence in Journalism Contest.

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