by Kevin Stott | With the Kentucky Derby just five weeks away, today’s Grade 1, $1 million Florida Derby from Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Florida, becomes a crucial test.
The favorite in the crucial prep race for Churchill Downs is 3-year-old colt Big Brown, who won his first race on the grass at Saratoga by 11¼ lengths and his second on the dirt at Gulfstream by 12¾. Big Brown, a 3-1 favorite on the morning line in the 12-horse field, is trained by Rick Dutrow and ridden by renowned jockey Kent Desormeaux.
Big Brown (20-1 Kentucky Derby futures at Caesars Palace) drew an unfavorable 12 post. Since Gulfstream was rebuilt four years ago, horses leaving from the 11 and 12 gates in 1 1/8-mile races are a pathetic 0-for-29 according to the Daily Racing Form.
Of the other 11 horses in the Florida Derby with a shot at the May 3 Derby, the list of contenders starts with Elysium Fields (4-1). He was second to Cool Coal Man (15-1 for the Kentucky Derby) in the Feb. 24 Fountain of Youth. Elysium Fields drew the No. 8 post and will be ridden by Eibar Coa.
Another 3yo to watch is Tomcito (4-1), ridden by Jorge Chavez and drawing the 4 hole. Tomcito won four races in Peru, including the Derby Nacional in his last start.
Rounding out the field are Hey Bryn (5-1), Fierce Wind (6-1), Face the Cat (8-1), Nistle’s Crunch (10-1), Smooth Air (12-1), Majestic Warrior (15-1), Da’Tara (20-1), Cool Gator (20-1) and BB Frank (20-1).
Fierce Wind, trained by Nick Zito, will start from the 1 post. He defeated Big Truck (25-1 Kentucky Derby) in winning the Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs in his last race. The Florida Derby, Race 10 at Gulfstream, will air on ESPN2. Post time is 2:45 p.m. PT.