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Skip Away Handicap winner Bandini with John Velazquez up.
Along with the Florida Derby, there were three other stakes races on the undercard that were contested on the main track. The $100,000 Skip Away Handicap saw a field of eight older horses travel 1 1/8 miles, and this race marked the return of last year's Blue Grass winner Bandini. The Todd Pletcher trainee was sent off as the overwhelming 2-5 favorite over 5-1 second choice Contante and 6-1 third choice Noble Causeway.
|Bandini wins by 1 1/4 lengths.|
Bandini leaps out of the starting gate to win wire to wire. Winning trainer Todd Pletcher said, "This horse has matured quite a bit from last year. He's made progress every step of the way and that performance was pretty much what we were hoping for. On paper he looked like he was the controlling speed. Sometimes race don't turn out the way they look on paper, but he was able to get to the front and do what we expected. We'll point for the Met Mile That's been the plan."
Bandini returns after the race. Winning jockey John Velazquez said, "I wanted to give him a little break the first part of it, so I gave him his head to let him get comfortable, and then when I asked him, it was all him."
|Little Thunder coast home by 5 lengths in the Artax handicap.|
Little Thunder returns after the race. Alex Prado, assistant to winning trainer Dale Capuano said, "We found out about how much he doesn't like two turn a couple of races back. Ever since we claimed him last year, he just keeps getting better and better, and improving. His speed figure last time showed that. He's a nice horse, and he's great to work with, and this race was the payoff for our work." Jockey Clinton Potts added, "He jumped right up in the bridle. He pretty much dragged me the whole way around. That was unexpected. I can't take any credit for that, because the horse did it all himself."
Second place finisher Nightmare Affair crosses the finish 5 lengths behind Little Thunder. He is still looking for his first win since last August.
Third place finisher and beaten favorite Gygistar returns after the race. It was his first start since finishing third in the Cigar Mile last year. He was second in the Artax last year.
|It was a close finish between Exclusive Quality and Diabolical|
Owner Aaron U. Jones prepares to lead Exclusive Quality to the winner's circle. Winning trainer Todd Pletcher said, "He's done everything we've asked him since he came down here this winter. It was great to see him willing to put up a fight, because he had to battle a little bit early on, and still kept going." He added that Exclusive Quality would ship to Belmont and start next in the Withers or the Woody Stephens Breeders' Cup (formerly the Riva Ridge).
Second place finisher Diabolical in the post parade. His last two races had been on the turf and he seemed to appreciate the change back to the main track.
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