Florida Derby Week kicks off Wednesday with the post-position draw for the $750,000 Curlin Florida Derby (G1) presented by Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm at Xalapa Saturday at Gulfstream Park.
The draw will be simulcast on GulfstreamPark.com at 12:15 p.m. The 70th running of the 1 1/8-mile Derby, which has produced 45 starters to win a remarkable 60 Triple Crown events, is expected to draw Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth (G2) and Holy Bull (G3) winner Greatest Honour, multiple Grade 1 stakes-placed Spielberg, Known Agenda, Collaborate and Nova Rags.
Courtlandt Farms’ Greatest Honour tuned up for the Florida Derby with a half-mile breeze at Payson Park Sunday morning, pleasing his Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey.
“He’s not a good work horse, but I thought this was a lot like his work before the Fountain of Youth, maybe better,” McGaughey said.
Greatest Honour, who is coming off an impressive off-the-pace win in the Feb. 27 Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream, was timed in 50.40 seconds. Watch the work at this link (you need a free account for 1/ST to watch works):
“I liked the way he worked. The other day, he went off a little quicker than I wanted,” McGaughey said. “I impressed upon [the rider] to just let him ease away from the pole and finish up strong, which he did. I got the last quarter in 13-and-change.”
The son of Tapit broke his maiden in his fourth career start December 26 at Gulfstream before capturing the Jan. 30 Holy Bull (G3) by 5 ¾ lengths and establishing himself as a prime Triple Crown candidate with a going-away 1 ½-length victory in the Fountain of Youth.
Also at Payson Park Sunday morning, Michael P. Shanley’s Nova Rags breezed three furlongs in 38.60 seconds for the Florida Derby.
“His works have been very steady,” Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott said. “He’s worked well enough here at Payson Park and I think he’s plenty fit.”
Nova Rags is coming off a second-place finish behind Mott stablemate Candy Man Can in the Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs, where the son of Union Rags won the seven-furlong Pasco by 2 ¾ lengths in his previous start.
At Gulfstream Park, Collaborate breezed five furlongs in 1:01.18 in preparation for making the leap from maiden company to a Grade 1 stakes in the Florida Derby. The Saffie Joseph Jr.-trained son of Into Mischief worked in company with Queen Nekia, the winner of the Royal Delta (G3) in her most recent start, who was timed in 1:02.49.
“The first eighth he went off a little slow in 14-and-change and picked it up after that. He galloped out well for the next eighth after the wire,” Joseph said. “Overall, I’m very pleased with the work. I’m happy with him.”
Collaborate graduated by 12 ½ lengths under wraps Feb. 27 the Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth (G2) undercard while completing a one-turn mile in 1:36.35.
Spielberg breezed five furlongs Sunday morning at Santa Anita Park while tuning up for a scheduled start at Gulfstream Park in Saturday’s $750,000 Curlin Florida Derby (G1) presented by Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm at Xalapa.
Trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, the son of Union Rags was timed in 59.40 seconds, the second fastest clocking of 81 workouts recorded at the distance.
“He went well. He’s very workmanlike and he’s steady,” Baffert said. “He’s doing well.”
Spielberg is slated to make his third 2021 start in the Florida Derby.
In his 2021 debut, the Kentucky-bred colt stumbled at the start of the Robert B. Lewis (G3) at Santa Anita before finishing fourth behind Baffert-trained winner Medina Spirit. He then finished second Feb. 27 in the Southwest (G3) at Oaklawn Park behind unbeaten Essential Quality.
Spielberg had a productive six-race juvenile campaign, in which he finished second in the Del Mar Futurity (G1) and third in the American Pharoah (G1) at Santa Anita before breaking his maiden in his fourth start. He went on to win the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) two starts later.
Javier Castellano has the mount on Spielberg, who is owned by SF Racing LLC, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables LLC, Golconda Stables, Siena Farm LLC and Robert Masterson.
St. Elias Stable’s Known Agenda breezed five furlongs in 1:02.52 Saturday morning at Palm Beach Downs.
“I thought he went great. The first eighth was a little slow. He went off in like 14 (seconds) and went the last half in 48-and-1. He looked good and seemed happy,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “I’ve liked the way he’s been training since his last race.”
Known Agenda is coming off a sharp 11-length optional claiming allowance victory Feb. 26 at Gulfstream Park at the 1 1/18-mile distance of the Florida Derby. After getting away last and finishing fifth in the Feb. 6 Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs, the son of Curlin was equipped with blinkers for the first time for his last start.
Known Agenda holds the distinction of owning a decision over likely Florida Derby favorite Greatest Honour, whom he defeated by a head while graduating in a 1 1/8-mile maiden special weight race Nov. 8 at Aqueduct.
Irad Ortiz Jr. has the mount.
At Gulfstream Park West, Papetu, who finished third in the Fountain of Youth following a very wide trip, breezed five furlongs in 1:12.80 Saturday morning in preparation for the Florida Derby. Sigiloso, a stablemate of Papetu, in the Antonio Sano barn, Siglioso was timed in 1:13.80 for five furlongs for the Florida Derby. Gustavo Delgado-trained Jirafales, who finished fifth in the Fountain of Youth following an awkward start, breezed five furlongs in 1:13.20.
Saturday’s Derby Day program will have 10 stakes, six graded, worth nearly $2 million. Races include the $250,000 Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) and $200,000 Pan American (G2) presented by Rood & Riddle.
First-race post time for Saturday’s 14-race Derby Day program is 11:30 a.m. Advanced wagering on Saturday’s 14 races will be available Friday.
~with files from Gulfstream