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Posted 2024-03-24 08:34:09  
Fierceness Headlines Florida Derby

Fierceness was installed as the 8-5 morning line favorite at Saturday afternoon’s post-position draw for the 73rd running of the Grade 1, $1 million Florida Derby next Saturday at Gulfstream Park.

The Repole Stable-owned 2023 Eclipse Award-winning 2-year-old male will be saddled by trainer Todd Pletcher, who will seek a record-extending eighth Florida Derby victory with the son of Uncle Mo. The Hall of Fame trainer saddled Forte for a victory last year.
The Florida Derby will headline a program with 10 stakes, five graded, worth $2.325 million.

Fierceness drew Post 10 in a field of 11 assembled for the tradition-rich 1 1/8-mile stakes for 3-year-olds that has produced 59 Triple Crown race winners since 1952.

Pletcher went into Saturday’s post-position draw with confidence that Fierceness will offer his best effort wherever he drew in the starting gate with the benefit of a clean break.

“Normally I’d be afraid of the outside post, but Forte won from the 11 last year, so you can overcome that,” Pletcher said. “Everybody knows Gulfstream two-turn races are very tricky and I think that’s why the start is so important, getting away cleanly. I think what happens in a lot of these two-turn races is the jockeys are so conscious of having to get to the first turn in good position that it can get a little rough leaving the gate sometimes.”

Repole Stable and Pletcher will also be represented by Bail Us Out, a recent maiden special weight winner who was rated at 15-1 after drawing Post 3.

Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez has the call on Fierceness, while Bail Us Out will be ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr.

Fierceness is coming off a disappointing third-place effort in the Feb. 3 Holy Bull (G3), in which he was squeezed and bumped between horses following the break. The Repole homebred is scheduled to seek redemption in the Florida Derby, in which he will clash again with Holy Bull winner Hades, who was rated third in the morning line at 7-2 after drawing Post 2.
Fierceness completed his championship 2-year-old season with a 6 1/4-length victory in the Nov. 3 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita. The homebred son of 2019 Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) winner City of Light scored an 11 1/4-length debut victory over a pair of next-out winners on a muddy Saratoga track Aug. 25 before finishing off the board following a troubled start in the Oct. 7 Champagne on a sloppy Aqueduct surface.

D.J. Stable LLC and Robert Cotran’s Hades, who is undefeated in three career starts, withstood heavy pressure while setting the pace in the 1 1/16-mile Holy Bull on his way to a two-length victory. Paco Lopez has the return mount on the Florida-bred Hades, who finished 3 1/2 lengths ahead of Fierceness in the Holy Bull.

Courtlandt Farms’ Conquest Warrior, who is scheduled to make his stakes debut in the Florida Derby for Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey, drew Post 9 before being rated second on the morning line at 3-1.

Conquest Warrior has scored back-to-back wins in a Jan. 13 maiden special weight race at a mile and a 1 1/16-mile optional claiming allowance on March 1 following a third-place finish in his seven-furlong debut at Aqueduct Dec. 2. McGaughey, who saddled Orb for victories in the 2013 Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby, awarded the return mount to Jose Ortiz.

Le Dom Bro, who finished second for owner Vicente Stella Stables in the March 2 Fountain of Youth (G2), has been rated at 15-1 after drawing Post 6. Frank DeLuca’s Frankie’s Empire, who finished third in the Fountain of Youth after defeating Le Dom Bro in the Swale, drew Post 1 and is rated at 12-1. Edwin Gonzalez has the return mount on Le Dom Bro, while Miguel Vasquez is named to return on Frankie’s Empire.
Granpollo Stable’s Grand Mo the First, who is coming off a close-up third-place finish in the Tampa Bay Derby (G3) March 9 after finishing third in the Swale, drew Post 4 before being rated at 15-1. Trainer Victor Barboza Jr. named Emisael Jaramillo to ride the son of Uncle Mo.
Reeves Thoroughbred Racing and partners’ Real Macho, fourth in the Fountain of Youth, drew Post 5 and is rated at 20-1. Hall of Famer Javier Castellano has the mount.

Catalytic, who finished a fast closing second in a six-furlong optional claiming allowance after graduating in his debut by 5 1/2 lengths, drew Post 7 before being rated at 20-1. Trainer Saffie Joseph Jr., who saddled White Abarrio for a victory in the 2022 Curlin Florida Derby, named Julien Leparoux to ride the Tami Bobo, Julie Davies and George Isaacs-owned son of Catalina Cruiser.

Brad Grady and David Brund’s Seminole Chief, who captured the $300,000 FSS In Reality to kick off a Championship Meet that includes a winning turf debut last time out, will leave from Post 8 and is rated at 30-1. Joel Rosario is named to ride the Jack Sisterson-trained son of Girvin for the first time.

Iris Cotto’s Iris’s Dream, who graduated in style in his turf debut last time out, is rated at 30-1 and will break from Post 11. Jorge Ruiz has the return mount aboard the Florida-bred son of Jess’s Dream.

In the 2024 Florida Derby G1, here are the contenders:

1. Frankie's Empire: Trained by Michael Yates, ridden by Miguel Angel Vazquez. Odds: 12-1.

2. Hades: Trained by Joseph F. Orseno, ridden by Paco Lopez. Odds: 7-2.

3. Bail Us Out: Trained by Todd A. Pletcher, ridden by Irad Ortiz, Jr. Odds: 15-1.

4. Grand Mo the First: Trained by Victor Barboza, Jr., ridden by Emisael Jaramillo. Odds: 15-1.

5. Real Macho: Trained by Rohan Crichton, ridden by Javier J. Castellano. Odds: 20-1.

6. Le Dom Bro: Trained by Eniel Cordero, ridden by Edwin Gonzalez. Odds: 15-1.

7. Catalytic: Trained by Saffie A. Joseph, Jr., ridden by Julien R. Leparoux. Odds: 20-1.

8. Seminole Chief: Trained by Jack Sisterson, ridden by Joel Rosario. Odds: 30-1.

9. Conquest Warrior: Trained by Claude R. McGaughey III, ridden by Jose L. Ortiz. Odds: 3-1.

10. Fierceness: Trained by Todd A. Pletcher, ridden by John R. Velazquez. Odds: 8-5.

11. Iris's Dream: Trained by Cheryl Winebaugh, ridden by Jorge Ruiz duplicate. Odds: 30-1.

Gulfstream Media and Breeders Cup image 

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