Longshot Ice Box, sent off at 20-1, lit up the tote board of the Florida Derby with a nose victory over 29-1 Pleasant Prince.
Underscoring the size of the upset, in last week's Horse Racing Nation Power Rankings poll, Ice Box was ranked #56, Pleasant Prince #89 and Rule was #3.
Trained by Nick Zito for owner Robert LaPenta, much more attention was paid to their other starter - Miner Reserve, who was sent off at 6-1 but struggled home in 10th.
The race complexion started off strangely as in a race full of speed, where many were questioning who would run with favored Rule and how he would respond, it was Corey Nakatani aboard late-running Pulsion that went straight to the lead.
Pulsion set a very solid pace of :23 1/5, :46 2/5 for the half-mile and 1:10 3/5 for six furlongs, shadowed by favored Rule the entire time. The favorite took over at the top of the stretch, scooted away from the field, but the late runners were coming with increasing momentum.
After the tiring 1:10 3/5 for three-quarters, Rule was decelerating and hit the mile in 1:36 before being overtaken by the closing longshots, who completed the 1 1/8 miles in 1:49, meaning the final three furlongs were run in a lackluster :38 2/5 seconds.
Lentenor, who had quickly dropped back to 10th, closed well for fourth, nearly six lengths behind the winner. Other than Rule, three of the top four were the three in the back at the beginning.
Horse 1/2 Finish
Ice Box 11th 1st
Pleasant Prince 9th 2nd
Rule 2nd 3rd
Lentenor 10th 4th
Kentucky Derby Outlook
So, the question is, looking ahead to the Kentucky Derby, what do we make of the Florida Derby?
Well, the first point is obvious. For Rule, let's all collectively say: "He is what we knew he was". Rule is a very nice front-runner, but he's going to have a tough time as a one-dimensional runner. He'll win some big races and look great one day, but in a big field with a fast pace, he will be compromised.
Ice Box and Pleasant Prince
Making nice runs, the Florida Derby 1-2 finishers are now on the Derby radar screen. They also now have considerable earnings and solid pedigrees for distance. Ice Box is by Pulpit out of a Tabasco Cat mare, and Pleasant Prince is out of the A. P. Indy sire Indy King, out of a Pleasant Tap mare. Interestingly, they are both field horses in both pools of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager, underscoring the openness of this year's Derby trail.
But given the fact that they were longshots, and made big closing runs after a hot pace, most people will rightfully view them both with a healthy dose of skepticism until they can duplicate a similar effort.
But the obvious conclusion for many will be that Ice Box and Pleasant Prince, the 5th and 4th place Fountain of Youth winners, flattered Eskendereya who was 10 1/4 and 12 lengths clear of these two last time.
However, our HorseRacingNation handicappers say beware of the Fountain of Youth as a yardstick. Eskendereya looked formidable that day, but he was aided by a slow pace, a lack of contending speed, and a possible track bias. So as much as the Florida Derby flatters Eskendereya, keep in mind that it may have made him look better than in reality as a speed-biased track and a slow pace completely hindered late runners like Ice Box and Pleasant Prince.