The highlight of the Gulfstream Park meeting is the $1 million Florida Derby (G1), a major prep for the Kentucky Derby, for 3-year-olds going 1 1/8 miles on the main track. A field of 12 three-year-olds went to post on Saturday, with Big Brown sent off as the 3-2 favorite, making his stakes debut after winning his first two career starts. In to challenge the Richard Dutrow Jr. trainee were 3-1 second choice Elysium Fields, second in the Fountain of Youth in his last start, and 7-1 third choice Fierce Wind, winner of three straight including the Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay.
Big Brown went to the front right away out of the far outside post, setting a quick pace of 22.76, 45.83, and 1:10.08 while Nistle's Crunch and Fierce Wind stalked him down the backstretch. Turning for home, Desormeaux asked Big Brown for run and the favorite opened up through the stretch. Smooth Air rallied from sixth but was no match for Big Brown who cruised under the line 5 lengths ahead in 1:48.16 over the fast main track, just 0.37 seconds off the track record and the fastest Florida Derby since 1996. It was another 7 1/2 lengths back to Peruvian invader Tomcito in third, while Fierce Wind faded badly in the stretch and finished 10th.