2020 Florida Derby Cheat Sheet

Racing
The field for the 2019 Florida Derby breaks from the starting gate, with eventual winner Maximum Security getting out well from post 7 en route to a dominant victory. (Eclipse Sportswire)

The Road to the 2020 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve has veered significantly off its path due to the society-spanning impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the Derby rescheduled for Sept. 5 and several major qualifying points preps either cancelled, postponed, or rescheduled, the connections of horses making their way through the prep series are faced with the task of adjusting their planning on a new time horizon that extends another four months.

Still, Churchill Downs announced that qualifying points earned during the prep series will count toward the 146th Derby run on the first Saturday of September, and that means this Saturday’s $750,000 Curlin Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park retains its importance as a crucial event. 

Through the years, the Florida Derby has been the key prep race in terms of producing Kentucky Derby winners, with 24 overall and six this century. To learn more about the race’s storied history, click here.

This year’s 69th running of the Florida Derby drew a full field of 12 plus one also-eligible, including leading Kentucky Derby contenders Tiz the Law, Ete Indien, and Independence Hall. Post time for the 1 1/8-mile race is set for 6:36 p.m. ET Saturday.

The Florida Derby will be televised on NBCSN and TVG. There will also be a pre-race show streamed live on America’s Best Racing’s Facebook page.

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Read on to learn more about each of the 13 contenders. 


Bob Coglianese/Gulfstream Park

1. As Seen On Tv (12-1)

Jockey: Paco Lopez

Trainer: Kelly Breen

Owner: Screen Door Stables

Career record: 5 starts – 2 wins – 2 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $146,205

Earnings per start: $29,241

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 101

Kentucky Derby qualifying points: 10

Pedigree: Lookin At Lucky – Untamed Passion, by Pulpit

Color: Bay

Running style: Press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: This Florida-bred colt is a must-use in exotic bets in Saturday’s Florida Derby based on his prior races at Gulfstream and his running style. He’s made both of his starts as a 3-year-old at the Hallandale Beach track, losing by a head to Chance It in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes and then tracking pacesetter Ete Indien in the Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes before faltering in the stretch and being edged by Candy Tycoon for second. Overall, As Seen on Tv has never finished worse than third, he has a solid pedigree for stamina, and he’s posted a couple of triple-digit Equibase Speed Figures that make him competitive with the main Florida Derby contenders. If he can get a clean break from the rail, look for him to sit close to the pace early and remain in contention until early stretch at least, with an outsider’s chance to fill out the exacta. 


Lauren KIng/Coglianese Photo

2. Shivaree (30-1)

Jockey: Emisael Jaramillo

Trainer: Ralph Nicks

Owners: Jacks or Better Farm

Career record: 9 starts – 3 wins – 2 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $194,055

Earnings per start: $21,562

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 104

Kentucky Derby qualifying points: 0

Pedigree: Awesome of Course – Garter Belt, by Anasheed

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Shivaree has flashed stakes-caliber talent throughout his career, winning two and finishing second in two so far. The problem is, they have all come at sprint distances. In his only start to date around two turns, he finished fifth to Chance It in a 1 1/16-mile Florida-bred stakes, beaten by 12 ½ lengths. This colt has a pedigree full of Florida-bred stakes winners highlighted by millionaire and Grade 1 winner Jackson Bend. His bloodline is largely sprint-oriented, though, and his Equibase Speed Figures are trending in the wrong direction after he posted a career-best 104 figure four starts ago when taking a six-furlong stakes last November. Still, Shivaree is a useful horse to use in exotic bets such as the trifecta and superfecta, and he’s paired up well with Gulfstream-based jockey Emisael Jaramillo, who’s ridden him in his last five starts with three wins and two seconds, including a runner-up effort to Derby trail horse Mischevious Alex in the Swale Stakes on Feb. 1.


3. Disc Jockey (SCRATCHED)

Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione

Trainer: Saffie Joseph Jr.

Owner: Frank Calabrese

Career record: 3 starts – 2 wins – 1 second – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $46,680

Earnings per start: $15,560

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 90

Kentucky Derby qualifying points: 0

Pedigree: Bodemeister – Cup o’ Luck, by Borrego

Color: Bay

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Inexperienced but promising (and nostalgically named) Disc Jockey faces a big challenge in the Florida Derby and will be one of the longest shots in the race when the gates open. He’s made all three of his starts at Gulfstream Park and was claimed from Mike Maker’s barn out of his debut win in a maiden claiming race in September 2019 by his current connections. Disc Jockey did not return until Jan. 11 in a one-mile starter optional claiming race, which he won handily by  5 ¾ lengths, and then he stepped up in class to contest the seven-furlong American Fabius Stakes (restricted to horses who had previously run in a claiming race) and finished second as the 7-10 favorite. He earned a career-best 90 Equibase Speed Figure in that race, and will need to boost it by around 15-20 points to compete with the likes of Tiz the Law, Ete Indien, and Independence Hall. This son of 2012 Kentucky Derby runner-up Bodemeister has proven that he’s too good to reside in the claiming ranks where he started his career, but he appears overmatched against this tough field.


Lauren KIng/Coglianese Photo

4. Soros (SCRATCHED)

JockeyEdgar Prado

Trainer: Gustavo Delgado

Owner: Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and OGMA Investments

Career record: 2 starts – 1 win – 1 second – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $51,775

Earnings per start: $25,888

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 83

Kentucky Derby qualifying points: 0

Pedigree: Commissioner – Eastern Ruckus, by Eastern Echo

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Soros concluded his 2-year-old season on Nov. 30, 2019, with a sharp 2 ½-length win in the one-turn mile Smooth Air Stakes at Gulfstream, improving off of a maiden win at Gulfstream Park West earlier in the month. That was a promising start to his career, but now he returns to the racetrack after a five-month break in a Grade 1 stakes against some of the leading Kentucky Derby contenders around. (Soros is also entered in an allowance race at Gulfstream Park on Friday and could start in that race instead.) This son of 2014 Belmont Stakes runner-up Commissioner has a solid pedigree, and trainer Gustavo Delgado is based in south Florida and saddled longshots Majesto and Bodexpress to second-place Florida Derby finishes in 2016 and 2019. Soros also retains Edgar Prado in the irons from his win back in November; the Hall of Famer has won the Florida Derby three times, aboard Harlan’s Holiday (2002); eventual Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro (2006); and Scat Daddy (2007). If the pace in Saturday’s Florida Derby is fast early, Soros could pick off a few tiring horses in the stretch and fill out the superfecta, but anything more than that would be a surprise given his lack of recent racing experience.


Adam Coglianese/NYRA

5. Gouverneur Morris (8-1)

Jockey: John Velazquez

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Owners: Team Valor International and WinStar Farm

Career record: 3 starts – 2 wins – 1 second – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $161,500

Earnings per start: $53,833

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 98

Kentucky Derby qualifying points: 4

Pedigree: Constitution – Addison Run, by Unbridled’s Song

Color: Gray or roan

Running style: Press the pace/stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Despite the presence of contenders Tiz the Law, Ete Indien, and Independence Hall who have built up stakes-winning résumés, this talented colt will take his share of win money Saturday based on his connections and potential for improvement (and for American history buffs, his name). Gouverneur Morris was one of the 2-year-old stars of Saratoga’s summer 2019 meet, romping by nine lengths in a 5 ½-furlong sprint on a sloppy track Sept. 2. He then finished second to Maxfield in the Grade 1, 1 1/16-mile Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity in October at Keeneland as the 3-2 favorite before taking a break of 4 ½ months. Returning at Tampa Bay Downs on Feb. 14 in a one mile and 40-yard allowance optional claiming race, Gouverneur Morris pressed pacesetter (and subsequent Gotham Stakes runner-up) Untitled and outfinished that foe to win by 1 ¼ lengths. This lightly raced son of young sire Constitution, who won the 2014 Florida Derby, has a good foundation for stretching out as his female family includes such top-class routers as Frosted and Midshipman. Gouverneur Morris will have to take the next step in development to upset the top tier of candidates in the Florida Derby, and the postponement of the Kentucky Derby should only help his chances to improve even more over the summer and vie for classic glory. Trainer Todd Pletcher has won the Florida Derby five times: Scat Daddy (2007); the aforementioned Constitution (2014); Materiality (2015); eventual Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming (2017); and Audible (2018). Hall of Famer John Velazquez was aboard Materiality, Always Dreaming and Audible, and has two other Florida Derby wins to total a record five for a jockey: Quality Road (2009) and eventual Kentucky Derby winner Orb (2013).


Susie Raisher/NYRA Photo

6. Ajaaweed (SCRATCHED)

Jockey: Luis Saez

Trainer: Kiaran McLaughlin

Owner: Shadwell Stable

Career record: 5 starts – 1 win – 1 second – 1 third

Career earnings: $139,850

Earnings per start: $27,970

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 98

Kentucky Derby qualifying points: 7

Pedigree: Curlin – Asiya, by Daaher

Color: Bay

Running style: Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Ajaaweed enters the Florida Derby carrying trainer Kiaran McLaughlin’s final Kentucky Derby aspirations as McLaughlin prepares to end his accomplished career conditioning racehorses and devote his talents to serve as agent for jockey Luis Saez, who won this race last year aboard subsequent disqualified Kentucky Derby first-place finisher Maximum Security. This son of Hall of Famer Curlin is a one-dimensional closer who has made up some late ground to hit the board in his two most recent Kentucky Derby preps – second in the Remsen Stakes in December and then third in the Sam F. Davis Stakes on Feb. 8 (11 ¼ lengths behind runner-up Independence Hall). He’ll need to improve substantially to have any shot at winning Saturday, and his back-of-the-pack, grinding running style does not fit well with Gulfstream’s speed-favoring track. Ajaaweed usually gives a good effort, and McLaughlin has put him through a series of good workouts at Palm Meadows Training Center, but settling for a minor award appears to be his ceiling once again against a tough Florida Derby field.  


Lauren KIng/Coglianese Photo

7. Tiz the Law (6-5)

Jockey: Manny Franco

Trainer: Barclay Tagg

Owner: Sackatoga Stable

Career record: 4 starts – 3 wins – 0 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $498,900

Earnings per start: $124,725

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 117

Kentucky Derby qualifying points: 22

Pedigree: Constitution – Tizfiz, by Tiznow

Color: Bay

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: This physically striking colt owned by Sackatoga Stable of Funny Cide fame was on a perfectly plotted course to the May 2 Kentucky Derby, training regularly at Palm Meadows after a smashing 3-year-old debut at Gulfstream with the goal of using the Florida Derby as his final prep. His schedule has been interrupted along with those of all other Kentucky Derby hopefuls, but even with the run for the roses pushed back to Sept. 5, Tiz the Law can still reaffirm his status as a leading contender with a good effort Saturday. He ticks all the boxes as a possible Derby, Preakness, and/or Belmont Stakes winner: powerful build, versatile running style, stamina-oriented pedigree, and connections with big-race experience. He enters the Florida Derby race off of a three-length win over Ete Indien in the Feb. 1 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream which netted him a 117 Equibase Speed Figure. (Ete Indien, of course, came back to dominate the Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes.) Saturday’s field is arguably the toughest one Tiz the Law will face so far in his career, but he’s a deserving favorite in the Florida Derby and will be very tough to beat. 


8. My First Grammy (50-1)

JockeyHector Berrios

Trainer: Amador Sanchez

Owner: Maria Mejia

Career record: 3 starts – 0 wins – 1 second – 1 third

Career earnings: $13,380

Earnings per start: $4,460

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 97

Kentucky Derby qualifying points: 0

Pedigree: Curlin – Tabulation, by Giant’s Causeway

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Stalker 

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Winless My First Grammy is diving into deep waters on the order of the Marianas Trench in Saturday’s Florida Derby, entering off of a well-beaten runner-up effort in a one mile maiden race at Gulfstream on March 14. His best race actually came one race prior, when he ran third behind Mayberry Deputy in December at Gulfstream at the same distance and earned a 97 Equibase Speed Figure. Mayberry Deputy, however, subsequently was no threat to Tiz the Law in the Holy Bull Stakes, finishing fifth – and overall, My First Grammy appears to be thoroughly outclassed by nearly the entire Florida Derby field. A slight positive is his pedigree as a son of the great Curlin and out of a Giant’s Causeway mare (2011 Kentucky Derby runner-up Nehro is a relative on his dam’s side). This colt would be far better served competing in a two-turn maiden race on the Florida Derby undercard at Gulfstream or at Tampa Bay Downs, and should have very little, if any, say in how Saturday’s Grade 1 plays out.


Eclipse Sportswire

9. Independence Hall (9-2)

Jockey: Joel Rosario

Trainer: Michael Trombetta

Owners: Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Twin Creeks Racing Stables, Kathleen Verratti and Robert Verratti

Career record: 4 starts – 3 wins – 1 second – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $250,000

Earnings per start: $62,500

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 107

Kentucky Derby qualifying points: 14

Pedigree: Constitution – Kalahari Cat, by Cape Town

Color: Dark bay or brown

Running style: Press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Independence Hall may be slightly overlooked on Florida Derby day due to the presence of Tiz the Law, Ete Indien, and “buzz horse” Gouverneur Morris, and that could make him the best value play in the race. He’s only lost once in his career, finishing second in his most recent start behind Sole Volante in the Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on Feb. 8. He was defeated by 2 ½ lengths by Sole Volante, who rallied strongly from off the pace and surged past Independence Hall in the final sixteenth. Independence Hall defeated third-place Ajaaweed by 11 ¼ lengths in the Sam Davis, however, and Sole Volante subsequently came back to run a good second in the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby. This son of 2014 Florida Derby winner Constitution won his prior three starts by a combined 21 lengths and has been training well in Tampa for Michael Trombetta in preparation for Saturday’s start. Look for him to sit just off of the early pace and make a bid for the lead through the far turn if not a bit earlier. If he can bounce back from his only defeat, Independence Hall could post a mild upset against a tough field in the Florida Derby.


Bob Coglianese/Gulfstream Park

10. Candy Tycoon (20-1)

Jockey: Luis Saez

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Owner: Mathis Stable

Career record: 6 starts – 1 win – 2 seconds – 2 thirds

Career earnings: $134,600

Earnings per start: $22,433

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 95

Kentucky Derby qualifying points: 20

Pedigree: Twirling Candy – Liberty’s Lyric, by Unbridled’s Song

Color: Bay

Running style: Press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Candy Tycoon jumped onto the Kentucky Derby points leaderboard on Feb. 29 with a late-closing second behind runaway pacesetter Ete Indien in the Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes. In that race, he departed from his usual forwardly placed running style and settled near the back of the field through the first half-mile. He moved up gradually and got carried out a bit by third-place As Seen on Tv in the stretch but continued on gamely while still finishing 8 ½ lengths behind Ete Indien at 23.90-1 odds. This colt will be a longshot once again Saturday against a tougher field than he faced last time, and it will be interesting to see whether Luis Saez keeps him in the rear guard through the first mile or puts him closer to the lead as in his earlier races. Saez picks up the mount after the scratch of Ajaaweed as Manny Franco, Candy Tycoon's rider in the Fountain of Youth, sticks with main Derby contender Tiz the Law; John Velazquez, who has ridden Candy Tycoon four times, remains on Todd Pletcher-trained Gouverneur Morris; and Hall of Famer Javier Castellano, originally tabbed to ride in the Florida Derby, has tested positive for COVID-19 and is in self-quarantine. Candy Tycoon is a horse on a definite upswing – his two starts at age 3 have been much better than his four starts last fall – but his win chances in the Florida Derby are remote. Saez won this race last year aboard subsequent disqualified Kentucky Derby first-place finisher Maximum Security


Bob Coglianese/Gulfstream Park

11. Sassy But Smart (SCRATCHED)

JockeyJoe Bravo

Trainer: Kendall Condie

Owners: Martha Borchetta, Mike Borchetta, Scott Borchetta and Martin Silver

Career record: 4 starts – 1 win – 1 second – 1 third

Career earnings: $43,150

Earnings per start: $10,788

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 93

Kentucky Derby qualifying points: 0

Pedigree: Overdriven – Home Run Sassy, by Unbridled America

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Sassy But Smart has made all four of his career starts at age 3 at Gulfstream Park and competed well each time, finishing third in his Jan. 2 debut on turf, second on Jan. 24 on dirt, and then first in a one-mile, two-turn turf race restricted to Florida-breds on Feb. 13. He then started in the Grade 3 Palm Beach Stakes on turf Feb. 29 against a full field and ran a solid fourth, losing third by a neck. Among the longshot entrants in Saturday’s Florida Derby, this Overdriven colt holds some appeal based on his prior record and competitiveness, but his win chances are still scarce matched up against the top tier of candidates. Look for him to settle near the rear guard after breaking from post 11 and make one run at the top of the stretch, with the hopes of passing a few spent horses and grabbing a minor award.


Bob Coglianese/Gulfstream Park

12. Ete Indien (4-1)

Jockey: Florent Geroux

Trainer: Patrick Biancone

Owners: Linda Shanahan, Sanford Bacon, Dream With Me Stable, Horse France America, D P Racing and Patrick Biancone Racing

Career record: 5 starts – 3 wins – 1 second – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $333,156

Earnings per start: $66,631

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 113

Kentucky Derby qualifying points: 54

Pedigree: Summer Front – East India, by Mizzen Mast

Color: Dark bay or brown

Running style: Pacesetter

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Ete Indien’s presence in the Florida Derby gives handicappers some degree of certainty when they sit down and begin figuring out how the race will play out – because unless there’s a mishap at the starting gate, this fast colt will be vying for the lead from the outset. After winning one of two starts on turf to begin his career, the Summer Front colt switched to dirt on Dec. 20 and impressively won a one-mile allowance optional claiming race at Gulfstream and then ran a solid second behind Tiz the Law, defeated by three lengths, in the 1 1/16-mile Holy Bull Stakes on Feb. 1. He led throughout in his December win and set the early pace in the Holy Bull, and in his next start benefited from a bold, aggressive ride by Florent Geroux in the Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes on Feb. 29 to take the early lead again from the far outside post position. Ete Indien controlled matters thereafter in that 1 1/16-mile event and made a mockery of the field by extending his lead in the stretch, winning by 8 ½ lengths over Candy Tycoon. Having drawn the far outside post again, it will be incumbent upon Geroux to do the very same thing he did last time: urge his mount out of the gate and put several lengths between himself and the field before reaching the first turn. If that scenario plays out again and Ete Indien can slow the pace down in the backstretch and get a breather, this horse could give his connections a sweet déjà vu experience in the Gulfstream winner’s circle Saturday.


13. Rogue Element (also-eligible, 50-1)

Jockey: Miguel Vasquez

Trainer: Dale Romans

Owner: Calumet Farm

Career record: 3 starts – 0 wins – 1 second – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $9,030

Earnings per start: $3,010

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 84

Kentucky Derby qualifying points: 0

Pedigree: Honor Code – Sweet Success, by Candy Ride

Color: Dark bay or brown

Running style: Press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: If he draws into the Florida Derby, winless Rogue Element will be one of the longest shots in the race. He showed much improvement in his third career start on Feb. 29, finishing second by a neck in a one-mile Gulfstream maiden race at odds of 116.70-1. He set a contested pace in that event and nearly held on for a huge upset, and his odds were justified as he was defeated by a combined 35 ¼ lengths in his prior two starts earlier this year, both at Gulfstream. Rogue Element has a solid pedigree for route distances, as a son of young sire Honor Code from the A.P. Indy line and from a female family that also features A.P. Indy in the bloodline as well as Preakness Stakes winner Summer Squall. But he will have a huge hurdle to overcome as a speed horse breaking from the far outside (assuming he draws in) right next to the top-class frontrunner Ete Indien. Dale Romans-trained Shackleford finished second by a head in the 2011 Florida Derby and later won the Preakness Stakes. 

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