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2009 Florida Derby Day

Date: 03/28/2009

Quality Road draws away Dunkirk in the stretch run of the 2009 Florida Derby
The $750,000 Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park has in its 58-year history been an important prep for the Kentucky Derby, including recent winners Barbaro and Big Brown going on to win the Roses in their next start. A field of just 7 three-year-olds went to post in this 1 1/8 mile feature, after 2 original entries were scratched. Dunkirk, making his first start in stakes company after winning his first two starts by open lengths, was sent off as the 11-10 favorite over 6-5 second choice Quality Road, winner of the Fountain of Youth Stakes last time out, the major local prep for this race. 7-2 Theregoesjojo, second in the Fountain of Youth, was the third choice on the board.

78-1 outsider Casey's On Call went to the lead immediately under jockey E.T. Baird, setting an honest pace of 23.49 and 46.83 while being stalked by Quality Road and Theregoesjojo to his outside. Dunkirk was unhurried early, sitting back in 6th wide around both turns. Quality Road took over the lead from the tiring Casey's On Call on the far turn, getting 3/4 in 1:10.66, as jockey Garrett Gomez asked Dunkirk to move up to challenge. At the top of the stretch, Dunkirk got within a length of the leader but Quality Road fought him off through the stretch to prevail by 1 3/4 length at the line, getting the 9 furlong trip in a new track record time of 1:47.72. It was a long 6 lengths back to Theregoesjojo third. Kent Desormeaux aboard Theresgoesjojo claimed foul against John Velazquez on Quality Road for interference at the 1/4 pole but the claim was disallowed by the stewards.

Pgm  Horse              Jockey         Win   Place  Show
 2   Quality Road       Velazquez     4.40    2.40  2.10
 4   Dunkirk            Gomez                 2.40  2.10
 6   Theregoesjojo      Desormeaux                  2.10

Winning Time:  1:47.72 (new track record)

$1 Exacta 2-4                 9.00
$2 Trifecta 2-4-6             6.00
$1 Superfecta 3-4-6-9        36.10
Results Chart from DRF.

Quality Road gets a bath at the barn after the race. Winning jockey John Velazquez said, "I was just biding my time. He relaxed. I didn't have to wrestle him going into the backside. I didn't really think it was a lot (objection). He got close to me, but never passed me."

Trainer Jimmy Jerkens added, "Today's effort was terrific. He sat nice for John, didn't give him any trouble, and rated. When we went by the pacesetter, John gave him a breather. That was the whole thing. He didn't open up. He had a lot left to deal with Dunkirk. I'll probably stay (at Palm Meadows) and then go directly to Churchill Downs. We won't race again (until the Derby). It's only five weeks. When he goes to stud, they look for a lot of speed, and he has that (track record)."

Left: Second place finisher Dunkirk at the barn after the race. His trainer Todd Pletcher said, "Quality Road ran a big race. He's (Dunkirk) made huge strides. We'll stick to the plan (go to Kentucky Derby). If he gets in, fine. If not, we'll concentrate on big races down the line. He fell back just a touch more than I would have hoped, but he made a huge move in the final 1/16."

Right: Third place finisher Theregoesjojo gets bath after the race. His trainer Ken McPeek said, "He was up a little closer than usual, but you have to give the winner full credit. Hes a top horse and ran a great race."

There were two other stakes races on the undercard. Immediately before the Florida Derby, a field of 6 three-year-olds sprinted 7 furlongs on the $150,000 Swale Stakes (G2). This Ones for Phil, winner of the Sunshine Millions Dash before disappointing in 10th in the Fountain of Youth, was sent off as the 8-5 favorite over 9-5 second choice Big Drama, winner of 5 straight but unraced since the Delta Jackpot in December. Jockey Eibar Coa sent Big Drama to the front and he was soon joined by This Ones for Phil to his outside. The pair battled it out for almost the entire distance through fractions of 23.01, 45.17, and 1:08.36. In mid stretch, Big Drama came out and bumped This Ones For Phil, then pulled away to finish 1/2 a length in front in what would have been a track record time of 1:20.88. However, due to the interference, the stewards disqualified Big Drama and placed him behind This Ones for Phil.

Results Chart from DRF.

Left: This Ones for Phil in the winner's circle. Winning jockey Garrett Gomez said, "The horse ran a beautiful race. We got a good break. I was asking the horse for a little at the half (mile) point and we got going some. (Big Drama) clearly bumped me. All you have to do is watch the tape. In fact he bumped me twice. He did it at the 1/8 pole and again about 50 yards before the wire."

Right: Big Drama leads in the stretch. His trainer David Fawkes said, "What I saw was a new track record and I got taken down. Should he have stayed up? I don't know. I have to watch it again."

The last stakes race on the card was the $100,000 Appleton Stakes (G3) for older horses going 7 1/2 furlongs on the turf. 3-1 second choice Bold Start battled for the lead with 8-1 Artic Cry through fractions of 23.98, 47.27, and 1:10.25. Bold Start gave way in midstretch, allowing Artic Cry to take over the lead with a furlong remaining. However, 5-2 favorite Kiss the Kid, who raced in fourth early, came out wide for the drive and closed with a rush to pass Artic Cry late to get the 1/2 length victory in 1:28.01 over the firm course. It was just 3/4 length more to 5-1 Passager third.
Results Chart from DRF.

The Amy Tarrant trainee improved his record to 8 wins, 2 seconds, and 5 thirds in 27 starts, earning $609,767 for owner Hardacre Farm.

Thanks to Amber Chalfin for the photographs.

2008 Florida Derby won by Big Brown
2007 Florida Derby won by Scat Daddy
2006 Florida Derby won by Barbaro
2005 Florida Derby won by High Fly
2004 Florida Derby won by Friends Lake

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