The centerpiece of Gulfstreams 2004 meeting will be run as the ninth event on a 13-race card. Post time for the Florida Derby is 4:20 p.m., and the race will be televised live on ESPN2 during a half-hour broadcast from 4 to 4:30 p.m. Saturday. Gulfstreams Florida Derby Day program which features four other stakes races, including the $150,000 Swale with Eurosilver as the choice, and the $100,000 Stonerside Forward Gal featuring the unbeaten Madcap Escapade will start early, with gates opening at 10:30 a.m. and the days first race scheduled to go off at noon.
Read the Footnotes finished his juvenile season on a winning note with victories in the Grade 3 Nashua and Grade 2 Remsen. He came out running as a 3-year-old when he outgamed Second of June in one of the most exciting renewals ever of the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes. The New York-bred colt by Smoke Glacken was all-out to score a neck victory in the Feb. 14 prep for the Florida Derby, and trainer Violette has taken every precaution to ensure Read the Footnotes is fully recovered from that effort. Violette gave his colt two weeks of easy living, and then picked up the pace in his training at Palm Meadows. Jerry Bailey, who won a record seventh Eclipse Award as Americas top jockey last year, stays with Read the Footnotes for the Florida Derby, reason enough for most people to put the colt on top of all their tickets. Bailey will be looking for a third Florida Derby score. He won the race last year on Empire Maker and in 1992 on Technology.
Value Plus, owned by Aaron and Marie Jones, was impressive winning his 3-year-old debut here in an allowance race on Feb. 14. That victory at seven furlongs was just the second in five starts for the son of Unbridleds Song, who broke his maiden at Saratoga last July. The gray colt has sharp speed, but has been unlucky in his three previous stakes starts. In the Grade 1 Futurity at Belmont, he hit the gate at the start and was never able to get near the lead. In the Lanes End Futurity, he steadied in tight quarters and was hard used to get near the front, but could not catch Eurosilver. In the Nashua, he stumbled leaving the gate and dropped his jockey. John Velazquez, Gulfstreams leading jockey riding for Gulfstreams leading trainer, has the mount again as Value Plus goes from Post 8.
Tapit would be the greatest comeback story in the history of the Florida Derby. No horse has ever won the race without first having a prep race, and Tapit has not started since he took the Laurel Futurity last Nov. 15 in just his second career start. The fact that Tapit is listed at 5-1 on the early line from Post 4 is tribute to just one thing the demonstrated ability of trainer Michael Dickinson to do the seemingly impossible. Dickinson has won Grade 1 stakes before with horses coming off layoffs of a year or more, and Tapit would be just his latest miracle. The gray Pulpit colt, owned by Winchell Thoroughbreds, had his training interrupted by sore shins, and just recently started bearing down. Tapit had a work in company at Laurel, followed by a longer drill at Dickinsons Tapeta Farm in Maryland before shipping to Florida Tuesday. Edgar Prado, who won the 2002 Florida Derby with Harlans Holiday, was selected as the new rider for Tapit.
Here are the entries for the Florida Derby with post positions and morning line odds. Free past performances are available from Daily Racing Form.
|1||The Cliff's Edge||122||Nick Zito||Shane Sellers||12-1|
|2||Friends Lake||122||John Kimmel||Richard Migliore||15-1|
|3||Read the Footnotes||122||Rick Violette Jr.||Jerry Bailey||7-5|
|4||Tapit||122||Michael Dickinson||Edgar Prado||5-1|
|5||Farnum Alley||122||Tony Reinstedler||Pat Day||20-1|
|6||Sir Oscar||122||Marty Wolfson||Julio Garcia||8-1|
|7||Notorious Rogue||122||Mark Hennig||Joe Bravo||20-1|
|8||Value Plus||122||Todd Pletcher||John Velazquez||3-1|
|9||Frisky Spider||122||Bob Durso||Eddie King Jr.||20-1|
|10||Smoocher||122||David Bell||Jose Santos||12-1|