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Florida Derby Day 2004

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Florida Derby 2004

Friends Lake with Richard Migliore up winning the 2004 Florida Derby over Value Plus.

Cindy Pierson Dulay
Updated March 16, 2004
The top three-year-olds of the east coast gathered at Gulfstream Park on Saturday for the $1 million Grade 1 Florida Derby, historically a key race for Triple Crown hopefuls. Ten went to post, with Read the Footnotes sent off as the even-money favorite.

62-1 longshot Frisky Spider was loose on the lead for the first half mile in 47.05, with 4-1 second choice Value Plus stalking him three wide around the first turn. Down the backstretch, Value Plus took command as Frisky Spider dropped out of contention, and led the field around the far turn through 3/4 in 1:11.54. Favorite Read the Footnotes saved ground along the rail under Jerry Bailey back in eighth, and, turning for home, drew even with Value Plus but had nothing left for the stretch. Down the lane, 37-1 longshot Friends Lake, who had saved ground in sixth early on and swung out wide on the turn, rallied under the whip of Richard Migliore, catching Value Plus inside the 1/16 pole and prevailed by 3/4 length in 1:51.38 for the 1 1/8 miles. It was another 3/4 length back to late-running 5-1 shot The Cliff's Edge, and 2 1/2 back from him to the favorite Read the Footnotes. Results Chart

Winning trainer John Kimmel said, "It's so tough to keep coming back and holding good form. If he can run a race like this off an eight week layoff we might think about not running him again until the Kentucky Derby."

Winning jockey Richard Migliore said, "I was pretty confident from about the half-mile when he started pulling me. About the 3/16 pole I opted to ease him out to the middle of the track to get clear. He's got that great, big A.P. Indy stride and he picked it up from there. He was very difficult last time, and he's come a long way."

Todd Pletcher, trainer of second place finisher Value Plus, said, "He just got a little tired at the eighth pole. That's probably because I only had one seven-eighths race into him and two five-eighths breezes since then. I had hoped we could win it today, but I think we established ourselves."

Nick Zito, trainer of third place finisher The Cliff's Edge, said, "It's a little bittersweet because I really think we could have won. This horse just always runs a good race. He's a legit horse. He runs all day. He will run a mile and a quarter. He just needs a break. Maybe down the road we'll get that break."

Rick Violette, trainer of beaten favorite Read The Footnotes, said, "I have to think his race in the Fountain of Youth did him in today. As much as we tried to overcome it, it obviously didn't work. At the eighth pole it sort of hit him in the face."

On to the other races: Swale Stakes, Forward Gal Stakes, and Skip Away Handicap.

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