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Recapping the Florida Derby card

The annual Florida Derby card at Gulfstream Park is always an action-packed, fun-filled day. Even though the $1 million Grade 1 Florida Derby is the feature, the stars come out in force with the stakes races on the undercard. The 3-year old fillies get their share of the limelight with the Gulfstream Oaks, and the older horses, dirt and turf runners alike, have plenty of spots to choose from with races like the Rampart, Pan American, and Orchid on the card. Yesterday was no exception to the tradition of good racing at the South Florida track, and when the dust settled, there was plenty to take away from all the performances.
 
 
No excuses in Rampart
 
Rampart (G2) winner Gamay Noir is the same filly that was well beaten by these very same fillies in the G2 Sabin back in February. She then shipped to Tampa Bay and ran fourth behind weaker opponents in a listed stake. So what the heck happened in the Rampart? Heavily favored Devil’s Cave should have been gone at the top of the lane after setting comfortable splits with little pressure. Instead, with the track playing fair, Gamay Noir was able to make up a good bit of ground to pass the entire field. Did she really improve that much over the last two months or did the rest of the field regress? Hard to say for sure, but though Gammy Noir was the best yesterday, I don’t believe she’s better overall than the fillies she beat.
 
 
In Tune gritty in Gulfstream Oaks win
 
In Tune was the female half of an undefeated, three-year old, Todd Pletcher trained duo, and she stayed that way after grinding out a win in her stakes debut. Content to sit off the flank of pace-setting Whomping Willow in the Gulfstream Oaks (G2) in the early stages, In Tune and House Rules both looked like winners turning for home. Battling down the entire length of the stretch, both fillies showed incredible heart, but it was In Tune that proved the grittier of the two, getting her head in front for good right as they crossed the wire. As long as she comes out of the race in good order, In Tune will head to Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Oaks. She learned a lot from her experience yesterday, and though she obviously has a lot of heart, her lack of experience will likely come back to haunt her when she faces the likes of Fair Grounds Oaks winner Untapable.
 
 
Anjaz sneaks away on lead in Orchid
 
With Rajiv Maragh in the irons for Godolphin, Anjaz had things all her own way on the lead in the Orchid (G3) . Setting very comfortable splits of 49:18, 1:14.17, 1:37.95 for the mile and a half event, Anjaz had plenty left in the tank, running the final half mile in a fast 46:75. Spurting clear in the stretch, the Street Cry mare crossed the wire 2½ lengths in front of second place finisher Viva Rafaela. Post time favorite Aigue Marine and Very One winner Inimitable Romanee, both stretch runners, had no answer for the winner, finishing sixth and seventh respectively. Trainer Thomas Albertrani did an excellent job of having Anjaz ready off the bench. The mare hadn’t faced the starter since finishing second in the Waya Stakes at Saratoga back in August. Since coming to the U.S., Anjaz had been competitive but not a winner. That changed yesterday with the Orchid being her first U.S. and her first stakes win. Add another competitor to the filly and mare turf division.
 
 
Hey Leroy upsets Appleton
 
When Hey Leroy crossed the wire a winner by a neck in the Appleton (G3), I really began to feel bad for Mr. Online, Salto, and their connections. Finishing second and third respectively, the Appleton result mirrored that of last month’s Canadian Turf Stakes except with a different winner. With both Reload, the Canadian Turf winner, and Hey Leroy getting their first career stakes wins against this bunch, their victories made me seriously question the quality of the handicap turf fields at Gulfstream. Not to take anything away from either winner, but two upset winners against the same bunch says more about the field than the winner. Moving forward, I don’t think many of the male turf runners we have seen this winter at Gulfstream will have a huge impact in the bigger races throughout the year.
 
 
Micromanage finds winner’s circle in Skip Away
 
It had been a long 8½ months since Repole Stable owned Micromanage had seen the winner’s circle, but he finally got a return trip there yesterday. Stalking an average pace set by Nevada Kid and Sr. Quisqueyano, Micromanage began to move up on the leaders in the far turn. Taking over from Sr. Quisqueyano in early stretch, the bay Medaglia d’Oro colt sprinted away from his rivals, crossing the wire the winner by 4¼ lengths. With the leading handicap horses out in N’awlins (that’s New Orleans for you non-Southern folk), the field Micromanage beat was far from world class. Far from announcing himself as a leading contender in the division, Micromanage at least got a confidence booster from yesterday’s thumping of the Skip Away field. How he fares against deeper competition will remain to be seen.
 
 
A second Pan American for Newsdad
 
We always talk about the “other Baffert” or the “other Pletcher,” but it was the “other Mott” who took home the lion’s share of the Pan American (G2) purse. Third in last month’s Mac Diarmida, Slumber went to post as the favorite in the Pan American, but stablemate Newsdad blew right past him in the stretch to win by a neck. Winner of the 2012 edition of the race, Newsdad finished third as the favorite in last year’s renewal. Off for nearly a year after that race due to a tendon injury, the 6-year old son of Arch most recently finished seventh in a NW3X optional claimer in his first start off the layoff. Always a useful turf router throughout his career, Newsdad showed that he wasn’t done yet with yesterday’s victory. He joins a host of other turf routers seeking to fill the void left by the retirement of Point of Entry.
 
 
Constitution steps up in Florida Derby
 
The second half of the undefeated, three-year old Pletcher trained duo, Constitution proved he could run with the big boys off just two prior career starts. Stalking the pace behind established rivals Wildcat Red and General a Rod, Constitution got a lucky break when the rail opened up turning for home. Squeezing between the rail and Wildcat Red, Constitution battled that stubborn foe down the lane to prevail by a head. In winning the Florida Derby (G1) in just his third career start, the Winstar Farm and Twin Creeks Racing Stable owned colt accomplished something not seen since Big Brown pulled off the same feat in 2008. With Wildcat Red, General a Rod, and Cairo Prince finishing second, third, and fourth respectively, the best four colts in the field finished right where they should have, though not necessarily in the expected order. Race favorite Cairo Prince showed little while finishing fourth, but we have to remember that the goal is the first Saturday in May, not the last Saturday in March. Whether or not he was just not fully cranked or if he just wasn’t good enough, Cairo Prince may have missed the boat in terms of points depending on how the rest of the preps play out. As it stands, Constitution looks to continue to follow in Big Brown’s hoof prints, seeking to win the Kentucky Derby in just his fourth career start. 

 

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Older Comments about Recapping the Florida Derby card...

My favorite winner Sat at Gulf was Charge Now,a half to Super Saver by Tiznow,making just his second start I fell in love with him as a foal and waited almost 3 yrs to watch him run Had some issues s a 2 yr old that kept him from racing,but, his 3 yr old starts show he has promise going on Only wish he could have been Derby contender
As usual Pletcher had a big day on Gulfstream's biggest day!

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