2021 Florida Derby Cheat Sheet

Racing
Spielberg (left) and Greatest Honour headline the 69th running of the Florida Derby Saturday at Gulfstream Park. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Saturday’s $750,000 Curlin Florida Derby Presented by Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms at Xalapa is the marquee race during Gulfstream Park’s winter-spring Championship Meet and a crucial prep for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve.

The Grade 1, 1 1/8-mile race offers a total of 170 qualifying points for the 147th Derby May 1 at Churchill Downs, distributed to the top four finishers on a 100-40-20-10 scale.

Fifteen Florida Derby winners have gone on to wear the Kentucky Derby’s garland of roses, most recently Always Dreaming in 2017. This year’s 69th running is highlighted by Greatest Honour, who won Gulfstream Park’s two Florida Derby preps, the Holy Bull Stakes and the Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes, earlier this year.

The Florida Derby will be televised on NBCSN as part of NBC Sports’ “Road to the Kentucky Derby” series on a show starting at 6 p.m. ET.

Get an Instant $10 and up to $500 Bonus when you sign up and bet the Florida Derby with 1/ST BET! Visit 1st.com/bet/cheatsheet and use promo code 500ABR to get started. Once you have signed up, you'll get an instant $10 in your account, free, and you can get an extra $10 for every $100 wagered, up to $500. That way, once you get to know the Florida Derby horses in this handy Cheat Sheet, you can stop by 1st.com/bet/cheatsheet and place your bets on Saturday, March 27. Plus, you can take advantage of 1/ST BET’s other promotions at 1st.com/bet/promotions. So no matter what horse you pick, your best bet is with 1/ST BET.

Read on to learn about all 11 Florida Derby contenders.


SV Photography

1. Nova Rags (12-1)

Jockey: Junior Alvarado

Trainer: Bill Mott

Owner: Michael Shanley

Career record: 4 starts – 2 wins – 1 second – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $110,650

Earnings per start: $27,663

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 92

Kentucky Derby Points: 4

Pedigree: Union Rags – Wishful Splendor, by Smart Strike

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Nova Rags comes to the Florida Derby off of a runner-up finish to stablemate Candy Man Rocket in the Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on Feb. 6. He mounted his rally from stalking position coming out of the far turn of that 1 1/16-mile race and continued on well through the stretch to finish a length back in second, although the overall time for the race was slow and he only earned an 89 Equibase Speed Figure. Candy Man Rocket returned to run a disappointing 11th of 12 in the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby as the 8-5 favorite, which does not flatter Nova Rags’ form to say the least, and he’ll also be coming back off of a nearly two-month layoff to tackle a mile and an eighth in Saturday’s race. Both of this colt’s wins have come in one-turn races, although he has a pedigree that suggests he should handle route distances as a son of Belmont Stakes winner Union Rags and out of a dam by Smart Strike whose relatives include another Belmont Stakes winner, Da’ Tara. Overall, though, Nova Rags is an outsider as a win candidate in the Florida Derby for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott and would have to improve significantly to topple Greatest Honour and Spielberg.


Lauren KIng/Coglianese Photo

2. Quantum Leap (20-1)

Jockey: Miguel Vasquez

Trainer: Ian Wilkes

Owner: Lothenbach Stables

Career record: 3 starts – 1 win – 0 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $34,730

Earnings per start: $11,577

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 92

Kentucky Derby Points: 0

Pedigree: Pioneerof the Nile – Grand Glory, by Distorted Humor

Color: Bay

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Quantum Leap will live up to his name Saturday as he goes from maiden winner to Grade 1 starter in the Florida Derby. He enters off of a neck win in a 1 1/8-mile maiden race at Gulfstream on Feb. 20, when he stalked the pace from third early, moved up to engage the pacesetter on the far turn, and then threw down in a stretch-long duel to outfinish that foe. That effort was a big improvement over his prior two starts, in which he finished third last fall in a 6 ½-furlong race and then a well-beaten sixth in his 3-year-old debut at Gulfstream in January, a race won by highly regarded Prevalence. This son of 2009 Kentucky Derby runner-up Pioneerof the Nile has already proven he can win going a mile and an eighth and could provide pace pressure to Collaborate and Known Agenda through the backstretch, but he’ll need to improve his 92 Equibase Speed Figure earned in his breakthrough win by about 10-15 points to have a chance at the upset – a tall ask for a colt coming out of a maiden win.


3. Jirafales (30-1)

Jockey: Edgard Zayas

Trainer: Gustavo Delgado

Owners: OGMA Investments and Off The Hook

Career record: 3 starts – 1 win – 0 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $35,910

Earnings per start: $11,970

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 86

Kentucky Derby Points: 0

Pedigree: Social Inclusion – Gran Pashita, by Horse Chestnut

Color: Bay

Running style: Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Like Greatest Honour and Papetu, Jirafales ran in both of Gulfstream’s Kentucky Derby preps leading up to the Florida Derby, but this colt is still in search of his first qualifying point. He finished fifth in both the Holy Bull Stakes and the Fountain of Youth Stakes, defeated a total of 27 lengths by Greatest Honour. Those are his only two starts as a 3-year-old, coming after an easy debut win last November at Gulfstream Park West in a 6 ½-furlong race. Sent off at 106.40-1 odds in the Fountain of Youth, Jirafales basically repeated his Holy Bull effort by running evenly and advancing only when other horses tired in the stretch. Jirafales appears overmatched in the Florida Derby and, in a best-case scenario, will pass a few opponents to check in a non-threatening fifth once again. Trainer Gustavo Delgado finished second in the 2019 Florida Derby with 71.50-1 shot Bodexpress and also second in 2016 with Majesto.


4. Southern Passage (30-1)

Jockey: Corey Lanerie

Trainer: Dale Romans

Owner: Robert Baron

Career record: 8 starts – 1 win – 2 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $40,892

Earnings per start: $51,650

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 93

Kentucky Derby Points: $5,112

Pedigree: Super Saver – Almudena, by Silver Planet

Color: Bay

Running style: Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: This son of 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver ran arguably the best race of his eight-start career two weeks ago when he closed late to nab second at 32.50-1 odds behind heavily favored Prevalence in a one-turn-mile Gulfstream allowance. He earned a career-best 93 Equibase Speed Figure and appeared capable of handling more distance and two turns, which he’ll get Saturday. Having said that, he still finished two lengths behind the winner and prior to that race he had been toiling mainly in the claiming ranks with little to show for it — his only win came in a one-mile maiden claiming race last fall at Churchill Downs. Southern Passage will be one of the longest shots in the field and should be closing from well back in the pack, and it would be very surprising to see him match strides with race favorite Greatest Honour when that horse begins to pick it up from a similar position. Dale Romans-trained Shackleford finished second in the 2011 Florida Derby and eventually won the Preakness Stakes.


Ryan Thompson/Coglianese Photo

5. Known Agenda (5-1)

Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr.

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Owner: St. Elias Stable  

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

Career earnings: $104,600

Earnings per start: $20,920

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 103

Kentucky Derby Points: 2

Pedigree: Curlin – Byrama, by Byron

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Known Agenda is an intriguing Florida Derby contender based on his most recent start, when he showed improved maturity and focus with the addition of blinkers after disappointing in two prior stakes tries on the Kentucky Derby trail. Coming in off of a third-place finish in last December’s Remsen Stakes and then a fifth-place effort in the Sam F. Davis Stakes on Feb. 6 as the 3-2 favorite, the Curlin colt started in a 1 1/8-mile allowance-optional claiming race at Gulfstream on Feb. 26 and romped by 11 lengths, earning a 103 Equibase Speed Figure. He sat a stalking trip in that race, overcame a minor incident at the top of the stretch when he brushed against the eventual runner-up while moving to the lead, and then pulled clear in the stretch for an authoritative win. This son of Hall of Famer Curlin and out of a Grade 1-winning turf mare has always been highly regarded and broke his maiden last fall at Aqueduct in another 1 1/8-mile race in which he defeated Greatest Honour by a head. If his last race is any indication, Known Agenda shapes up as a worthy challenger to the probable Florida Derby favorite when they meet for Round Two, and he should be in a position to get the jump on deep closer Greatest Honour when the field heads into the homestretch. Todd Pletcher, who is a finalist for the Racing Hall of Fame this year, has five wins in the Florida Derby: Scat Daddy (2007), Constitution (2014), Materiality (2015), Always Dreaming (2017), and Audible (2018). Vincent Viola’s St. Elias Stable co-owned eventual Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming.


6. Sigiloso (30-1)

Jockey: Leonel Reyes

Trainer: Antonio Sano

Owner: Gelfenstein Farm

Career record: 4 starts – 1 win – 0 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $32,260

Earnings per start: $8,065

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 99

Kentucky Derby Points: 0

Pedigree: Khozan – Ginablu, by Bluegrass Cat

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Sigiloso joins Papetu as Florida Derby contenders from locally-based Antonio Sano’s stable, and he’s got a good chance to carry the longest odds in the field when the starting gate opens Saturday. He’s making a switch from grass to dirt after three consecutive starts on Gulfstream’s turf course, winning a Jan. 13 maiden race restricted to Florida-breds and then finishing fourth and fifth in stakes races against open company. In his only start on dirt, his career debut on Dec. 10 at Gulfstream, he finished fifth by 18 ½ lengths in a six-furlong maiden race as the 2.40-1 favorite after a slow start. Sigiloso carried odds of more than 45-1 in both of his turf stakes tries and figures to approach those odds Saturday as well. Based on his past form, running on late to fill out the superfecta at a high price would constitute a good showing in the Florida Derby; backing stablemate Papetu to do the same is a much better bet. Sano trained 2017 Florida Derby third-place finisher Gunnevera.


Bob Coglianese/Gulfstream Park

7. Greatest Honour (6-5)

Jockey: Jose Ortiz

Trainer: Shug McGaughey

Owner: Courtlandt Farms

Career record: 6 starts – 3 wins – 1 second – 2 thirds

Career earnings: $351,940

Earnings per start: $58,657

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 106

Kentucky Derby Points: 60

Pedigree: Tapit – Tiffany’s Honour, by Street Cry

Color: Bay

Running style: Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Greatest Honour is a good bet to go off at odds around the even-money mark in Saturday’s Florida Derby as he towers over all other contenders in this race aside from Spielberg in terms of on-track accomplishments … and, unlike that contender, all of his have come at Gulfstream. He broke through with an impressive maiden win in his fourth career start and final one at age 2 back in December, taking a 1 1/16-mile maiden race at Gulfstream by 1 ½ lengths. He’s been even better this year in his two starts at the same distance and on the same track, coming back on Jan. 13 in the Holy Bull Stakes to win easily and then backing it up with another stakes score in the Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes on Feb. 27. In that race, Greatest Honour raced well off of the pace through the backstretch and threatened to lose touch with the field for a few beats – until he picked up momentum through the far turn and swept to the lead in the stretch to win going away by 1 ½ lengths. This son of Tapit from the family of Belmont Stakes winners Rags to Riches and Jazil has perhaps the best stamina pedigree of any 2021 Kentucky Derby contender, and he’s racing for a Hall of Fame trainer in Shug McGaughey who won the 2013 Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby with Orb. If there are any concerns about Greatest Honour’s chance to sweep Gulfstream’s Derby preps with another win Saturday, they are as follows: 1. the Florida Derby field shapes up as tougher than the ones in both the Holy Bull and Fountain of Youth; and 2. three of the new shooters – Collaborate, Known Agenda, and Soup and Sandwich – like to be forwardly placed and are bred for distance, which means they could be tougher to pass than a horse like Fountain of Youth runner-up Drain the Clock, who has a sprinter’s pedigree and could not hold the lead in deep stretch. Still, Greatest Honour figures to finish in the top three at least on Saturday, and a good effort that adds to the 60 Kentucky Derby qualifying points he has already accrued should be enough to send this colt and his accomplished connections on to Louisville for an attempt at history on May 1.


Lauren KIng/Coglianese Photo

8. Soup and Sandwich (20-1)

Jockey: John Velazquez

Trainer: Mark Casse

Owner: Live Oak Plantation

Career record: 2 starts – 2 wins – 0 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $42,875

Earnings per start: $21,438

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 99

Kentucky Derby Points: 0

Pedigree: Into Mischief – Souper Scoop, by Tapit

Color: Gray or roan

Running style: Press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: This unbeaten colt racing for top-notch connections is a bit of a wild card in the Florida Derby – he’s clearly talented, but will be testing deep waters in his first stakes start. Soup and Sandwich debuted at Gulfstream in a 6 ½-furlong race on Jan. 28 and romped by 7 ¼ lengths, earning an eye-catching 99 Equibase Speed Figure. He then surfaced at Tampa Bay Downs for a one mile and 70-yard, two-turn allowance-optional claiming race on Feb. 24 and again won easily by 2 ¾ lengths, earning a 96 figure. Since then, he’s posted two solid workouts at Palm Meadows Training Center for Hall of Famer Mark Casse and appears to be ready to face a stiff class hike in Saturday’s race. This striking gray son of Into Mischief is out of a dam who won twice at Monmouth Park in two-turn races at a mile and a mile and 70 yards, and he’s related to several other route winners through his second dam. Is Soup and Sandwich ready to jump on the Derby trail by toppling a tough group in the Florida Derby? The odds are remote, but this colt could be any kind and is definitely worth considering for all exotic bets and keeping tabs on down the road. Getting John Velazquez to ride is a big plus – the Hall of Fame jockey has five Florida Derby wins on his résumé with Quality Road (2009), Orb (2013), Materiality (2015), Always Dreaming (2017), and Audible (2018). Charlotte Weber’s Live Oak Plantation won the 2005 Florida Derby with High Fly.


Bob Coglianese/Gulfstream Park

9. Collaborate (6-1)

Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione

Trainer: Saffie Joseph Jr.

Owners: Three Chimneys Farm and e Five Racing Thoroughbreds

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

Career earnings: $27,400

Earnings per start: $13,700

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 97

Kentucky Derby Points: 0

Pedigree: Into Mischief – Quiet Temper, by Quiet American

Color: Bay

Running style: Pacesetter

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Collaborate looms a threat in the Florida Derby coming off of a pacesetting win in his second career start on Feb. 27 at Gulfstream. After he broke slow in his debut and finished fifth – but losing only by a length – in his Feb. 6 debut, he stretched out from six furlongs to a one-turn mile and was not threatened in a 12 ½-length runaway. That effort convinced his connections to join the Kentucky Derby trail, and Collaborate figures to make an impact on the race shape from the outset as he tries to carry his speed an extra eighth of a mile. Look for jockey Tyler Gaffalione to send him to the lead immediately from his outside post position in order to angle him inside before reaching the first turn, and then try to slow the pace down through the backstretch with pressure from Known Agenda. That colt plus race favorite Greatest Honour and California shipper Spielberg are formidable foes for a colt making his stakes debut, but this son of top sire Into Mischief out of a Fair Grounds Oaks winner should make some noise in the Florida Derby.


Eclipse Sportswire

10. Spielberg (4-1)

Jockey: Javier Castellano

Trainer: Bob Baffert

Owners: SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, Golconda Stables, Siena Farm, and Robert Masterson

Career record: 8 starts – 2 wins – 3 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $413,200

Earnings per start: $51,650

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 103

Kentucky Derby Points: 17

Pedigree: Union Rags – Miss Squeal, by Smart Strike

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: In recent weeks, California-based horses have shipped east to take down Kentucky Derby preps in Arkansas (Concert Tour in the Rebel Stakes) and Louisiana (Hot Rod Charlie in the Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby). Hall of Famer Bob Baffert sends Spielberg to south Florida to maintain the trend, and although this well-bred son of Belmont Stakes winner Union Rags (a $1 million purchase as a yearling) probably won’t be favored in Saturday’s Florida Derby, he’s not without a chance. Spielberg ran competitively in his first start outside of California when he checked in 4 ¼ lengths behind champion and current Kentucky Derby future book leader Essential Quality in the Feb. 27 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park. He started poorly and had a wide trip throughout the 1 1/16-mile race on a very sloppy track but still kept trying and made up some ground in the stretch to finish a clear second. Looking back on Spielberg’s form to his juvenile season, he’s been inconsistent and has followed an “on-off” pattern in his races since November, a habit he’ll need to break to have any chance at winning Saturday. If he can manage a good start from his outside post – which will be required to have any shot at winning – he should be positioned in midpack through the backstretch and has the benefit of a Hall of Fame rider in Javier Castellano to guide him through the far turn and find the right time to make a winning bid. Baffert has not sent many horses to Gulfstream over the years and Spielberg is, in fact, his first starter in the Florida Derby. Castellano won this race in 2014 aboard Constitution. Jack Wolf’s Starlight Racing co-owned 2018 winner Audible along with Madaket Stables’ Sol Kumin as part of another partnership, and Anthony Manganaro’s Siena Farm was part-owner of 2017 winner Always Dreaming.


Ryan Thompson/Coglianese Photo

11. Papetu (15-1)

Jockey: Emisael Jaramillo

Trainer: Antonio Sano

Owner: Magic Stables

Career record: 7 starts – 2 wins – 1 second – 1 third

Career earnings: $116,425

Earnings per start: $16,632

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 96

Kentucky Derby Points: 11

Pedigree: Dialed In – Lady Malkin, by Sharp Humor

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Papetu comes back for another shot at Greatest Honour in the Florida Derby after finishing fourth in the Holy Bull Stakes and then a decent third in the Fountain of Youth Stakes. He made a strong bid for the lead through the far turn in the Fountain of Youth and came almost on even terms with pacesetting Drain the Clock but could not sustain his challenge and finished two lengths behind the runner-up as Greatest Honour ran by them both in the stretch. This son of 2011 Florida Derby winner Dialed In has competed well in all three of his starts this year, starting with a second-place finish in the Mucho Macho Stakes at Gulfstream back in January, and obviously enjoys running on this track. As a closer, the far outside post shouldn’t hinder his chances, either. While he’s a definite longshot as a win candidate, Papetu profiles as a must-use horse in trifecta and superfecta bets on Saturday as he squares off against a Florida Derby field that is more formidable than the ones he faced in his earlier Gulfstream starts. Antonio Sano trained 2017 Florida Derby third-place finisher Gunnevera. Jockey Emisael Jaramillo finished second in last year’s renewal aboard Shivaree.

newsletter sign-up

Stay up-to-date with the best from America's Best Racing!