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2004 Florida Derby

Date: 03/10/2004

Read the Footnotes, whose Triple Crown status grows with each victory, will seek his fourth straight graded stakes win and undisputed leadership of the 3-year-old division Saturday when he goes off the 7-5 favorite in the $1 million Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park. A surprisingly large field of 10 was entered Wednesday for Saturday’s 53rd running of the mile and an eighth Florida Derby, the only $1 million race in the nation for 3-year-olds before the Kentucky Derby. All starters carry 122 pounds, and the winning connections will receive a prize of $600,000.

The centerpiece of Gulfstream’s 2004 meeting will be run as the ninth event on a 13-race card. Post time for the Florida Derby is 4:20 p.m., and the race will be televised live on ESPN2 during a half-hour broadcast from 4 to 4:30 p.m. Saturday. Gulfstream’s Florida Derby Day program – which features four other stakes races, including the $150,000 Swale with Eurosilver as the choice, and the $100,000 Stonerside Forward Gal featuring the unbeaten Madcap Escapade – will start early, with gates opening at 10:30 a.m. and the day’s first race scheduled to go off at noon.

Read The Footnotes is the 7-5 morning line favorite for the 2004 Florida Derby.

Read the Footnotes finished his juvenile season on a winning note with victories in the Grade 3 Nashua and Grade 2 Remsen. He came out running as a 3-year-old when he outgamed Second of June in one of the most exciting renewals ever of the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes. The New York-bred colt by Smoke Glacken was all-out to score a neck victory in the Feb. 14 prep for the Florida Derby, and trainer Violette has taken every precaution to ensure Read the Footnotes is fully recovered from that effort. Violette gave his colt two weeks of easy living, and then picked up the pace in his training at Palm Meadows. Jerry Bailey, who won a record seventh Eclipse Award as America’s top jockey last year, stays with Read the Footnotes for the Florida Derby, reason enough for most people to put the colt on top of all their tickets. Bailey will be looking for a third Florida Derby score. He won the race last year on Empire Maker and in 1992 on Technology.

Value Plus, owned by Aaron and Marie Jones, was impressive winning his 3-year-old debut here in an allowance race on Feb. 14. That victory at seven furlongs was just the second in five starts for the son of Unbridled’s Song, who broke his maiden at Saratoga last July. The gray colt has sharp speed, but has been unlucky in his three previous stakes starts. In the Grade 1 Futurity at Belmont, he hit the gate at the start and was never able to get near the lead. In the Lane’s End Futurity, he steadied in tight quarters and was hard used to get near the front, but could not catch Eurosilver. In the Nashua, he stumbled leaving the gate and dropped his jockey. John Velazquez, Gulfstream’s leading jockey riding for Gulfstream’s leading trainer, has the mount again as Value Plus goes from Post 8.

Tapit would be the greatest comeback story in the history of the Florida Derby. No horse has ever won the race without first having a prep race, and Tapit has not started since he took the Laurel Futurity last Nov. 15 in just his second career start. The fact that Tapit is listed at 5-1 on the early line from Post 4 is tribute to just one thing – the demonstrated ability of trainer Michael Dickinson to do the seemingly impossible. Dickinson has won Grade 1 stakes before with horses coming off layoffs of a year or more, and Tapit would be just his latest miracle. The gray Pulpit colt, owned by Winchell Thoroughbreds, had his training interrupted by sore shins, and just recently started bearing down. Tapit had a work in company at Laurel, followed by a longer drill at Dickinson’s Tapeta Farm in Maryland before shipping to Florida Tuesday. Edgar Prado, who won the 2002 Florida Derby with Harlan’s Holiday, was selected as the new rider for Tapit.

Here are the entries for the Florida Derby with post positions and morning line odds. Free past performances are available from Daily Racing Form. I will be at the race as well as the Tampa Bay Derby, so watch for results and photos on Sunday night.

  1The Cliff's Edge122Nick ZitoShane Sellers12-1
  2Friends Lake122John KimmelRichard Migliore15-1
  3Read the Footnotes122Rick Violette Jr.Jerry Bailey7-5
  4Tapit122Michael DickinsonEdgar Prado5-1
  5Farnum Alley 122Tony ReinstedlerPat Day20-1
  6Sir Oscar122Marty WolfsonJulio Garcia8-1
  7Notorious Rogue122Mark HennigJoe Bravo20-1
  8Value Plus122Todd Pletcher John Velazquez3-1
  9Frisky Spider122Bob DursoEddie King Jr.20-1
10Smoocher122David BellJose Santos12-1

From a Gulfstream Park press release.

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