Gutsy Constitution Takes Florida Derby Thriller


Constitution (inside) battled bravely through the stretch to edge Wildcat Red by a neck in the Florida Derby on March 29 at Gulfstream Park (Photo by Eclipse Sportswire)

Constitution left an indelible impression in his stakes debut on Saturday in the $1-million Besilu Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park.

The bay Tapit colt edged game Fountain of Youth Stakes winner Wildcat Red by a neck after a thrilling duel through the stretch and punched his ticket to the Kentucky Derby on May 3.

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Constitution, who improved to three wins in as many starts, will attempt to become the first horse since Apollo in 1882 to win the Kentucky Derby after not competing in a single race as a 2-year-old.

Trained by 6-time Eclipse Award winner Todd Pletcher for owners WinStar Farm LLC and Twin Creeks Racing Stables, Constitution entered the Florida Derby off a visually impressive 3 ¼-length romp on the Fountain of Youth Stakes undercard.

Stepping up in class to a Grade 1 race was a stern test for Constitution, but he proved up to the challenge.

Constitution was a bit rank early under jockey Javier Castellano but settled into a nice rhythm while saving ground on the rail, tucked in behind front-running Wildcat Red.

Fountain of Youth runner-up General a Rod moved up to challenge familiar rival Wildcat Red on the far turn, while highly regarded Cairo Prince launched his bid on the outside. Constitution bided his time waiting for an opening on the inside nearing the top of the stretch.

Constitution slipped through a narrow seam inside of Wildcat Red early in the stretch, but Wildcat Red fought back gamely to stay in front. Constitution inched to the lead in the final few strides under Castellano to nip Wildcat Red in a Florida Derby thriller.


Photo by Eclipse Sportswire

Constitution completed the 1 1/8-mile Florida Derby in 1:49.16 to earn the $600,000 winner’s share of the purse and boost his career earnings to $649,350. He returned $8.60 for a $2 win bet as the 3.30-to-1 second betting choice.

General a Rod finished 1 ¼ lengths behind Wildcat Red in third. Cairo Prince finished a well-beaten fourth as the 6-to-5 favorite.

The 100 points Constitution earned for the Florida Derby win guaranteed his spot in the starting gate for the Kentucky Derby. Twin Creeks purchased Constitution for $400,000 at the 2012 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale of selected yearlings.

Wildcat Red also cemented a spot in the Derby with 40 points to boost his total to 90, good for fifth on the Road to the Kentucky Derby leaderboard.

General a Rod earned 20 points and figured to be in good position for the Derby with 40 total points, while Holy Bull Stakes winner Cairo Prince could be in a precarious position for the first jewel of the Triple Crown. Cairo Prince earned 10 points to give him 24, which currently ranks 16th with four major Derby preps remaining that award 100 points to the winner, 50 for second and 20 for third.

Bred in Kentucky by Grapestock LLC and Fox Hill Farms, Constitution is the first starter produced by Grade 3-placed winner Baffled, by Distorted Humor. Baffled is a half-sister (same dam [mother], different sire [father]) to Grade 1-winning sprinter Emcee.

For an Equibase chart, click here.


Photo by Eclipse Sportswire

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