Florida BredsDateline: 06/26/97
Only 45 years ago, Florida breds where considered inferior animals and were given little respect in the racing world. Then along came a horse named Needles who turned that all around by winning the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes in 1956 and was Champion 2 year old of 1955 and Champion 3 year old in 1956. His success started a boom in the Florida breeding industry that has made it second only to Kentucky in the United States today.
The abundance of mineral rich pasture land and beautiful weather make it the perfect spot to raise horses. While only 9% of the thoroughbreds in the US are bred in Florida they win 20% of the stakes races. Florida breds win more than 300 stakes races and earn over $100-million in purse money annually. There have been 41 national champions, 72 equine millionaires, 18 Breeders' Cup stakes winners, and 6 Kentucky Derby winners. The last horse to win the Triple Crown, Affirmed, and Silver Charm who almost won it in 1997 are both Florida breds.
In addition to the excellent horses they produce the 600-plus thoroughbred breeding and training facilities in Florida provide over 27,000 jobs with an economic impact of over $2 billion annually. The thoroughbred racing industry in Florida is also very strong with four tracks providing high quality racing year round. One of the more influential races in the road to the Kentucky Derby is the Florida Derby, won this year by Monarchos who went on to win the Kentucky Derby and finish second in the Belmont Stakes.
Gone are the days that Florida bred horses were scorned by the upper ranks of the racing industry. Now they ARE the upper ranks.
Florida thoroughbred tracks online:
Calder Race Course
Tampa Bay Downs
A pictorial tour of the three major tracks