The Florida Derby is one of the most recognized races in the sport of horse racing - many of racing’s best horses have come through this race en route to greater things. We have compiled a list of ten fun facts about Gulfstream Park's premier race for three year olds to help you all gain even more appreciation for the Florida Derby:
1. The Florida Derby was inaugurated in 1952. The first running was won by a horse named Sky Ship, who was ridden by Ronnie Nash, trained by Preston Burch, and owned by Brookemeade Stable. The inaugural edition also had the largest field in the race’s history: 18 horses!
2. Empire Maker’s 9 ¾ length winning margin is the largest in the race’s history. Empire Maker absolutely crushed his competitors in the 2003 Florida Derby. He went on to win the Wood Memorial (G1) and Belmont Stakes (G1) before becoming a successful sire of horses like Pioneerof The Nile, Royal Delta, and Bodemeister. He is the grandsire of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.
3. 15 horses have won both the Florida Derby & Kentucky Derby. The Florida Derby has long been known as an important prep race on the road to the Kentucky Derby. 15 horses went on to win the Kentucky Derby after the Florida Derby: Needles (1956), Tim Tam (1958), Carry Back (1961), Northern Dancer (1964), Forward Pass (1968), Spectacular Bid (1979), Swale (1984), Unbridled (1990), Thunder Gulch (1995), Monarcos (2001), Barbaro (2006), Big Brown (2008), Orb (2013), Nyquist (2016), and Always Dreaming (2017).
[Video: Watch Northern Dancer win the Florida Derby]
4. John Velazquez has more Florida Derby wins than any other jockey. Johnny V. first won the Florida Derby aboard Quality Road in 2009. Four years later he piloted Orb to Florida Derby honors, then Materiality in 2015. In 2017, Velazquez won the Florida Derby aboard Always Dreaming and then won his second Kentucky Derby with the colt a few weeks later. He won the Florida Derby again in 2018 with Audible.
5. The biggest payout on a Florida Derby winner was $183.60. In 1966, a colt named Abe’s First had crossed the wire in the Florida Derby first, but was disqualified to 4th. This elevated 2nd place finisher Willamston Kid to 1st at odds of about 91-1.
6. Calumet Farm has the most Florida Derby wins of any owner. Calumet Farm has won the Florida Derby five times: Gen Duke (1957), Tim Tam (1958), Forward Pass (1968), Eastern Fleet (1971), and Alydar (1978).
7. Six horses have won the Florida Derby by a nose! The Florida Derby is known as a tough race, so it’s no surprise that six horses won the race by just a nose! The last was Ice Box in 2010!
[Video: Watch Vicar win the Florida Derby by a nose]
8. Spectacular Bid was the last horse to win all three Gulfstream Park Kentucky Derby preps. Gulfstream Park has three main prep races for the Kentucky Derby: the Holy Bull Stakes, Fountain of Youth, and the Florida Derby. Spectacular Bid swept all three of these races en route to winning the 1979 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.
9. Todd Pletcher is the trainer with the most Florida Derby wins. Pletcher has saddled five Florida Derby winners: Scat Daddy (2007), Constitution (2014), Materiality (2015), Always Dreaming (2017), and Audible (2018).
10. Gen. Duke holds the race record of 1:46.80 for 1 ⅛ miles. Gen. Duke set the race record in 1957. His time also equaled the world record for 1 ⅛ miles at that time. No other horse has finished the race in a time under 1:47 seconds.
[Video: Watch Unbridled's Song win the Florida Derby]
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