Castellano seeking first Florida Derby win while Velazquez goes for hat trick
One of two Florida Derby horses making his stakes debut, along with longshot Allstar, Constitution will break from post four in a field of eight that includes graded winners Cairo Prince, Wildcat Red and Spot as well as Gulfstream Park Derby winner General a Rod.
"I think it is a great post," Castellano stated. "I have a lot of confidence in my horse. I know he's only run two times but he's a young, developing horse and I really liked the way he did it last time. We stretched him out two turns and he handled it so well. I think he's got a lot of potential.
"I know you have to compare him with those Grade 2, Grade 3 horses, but I have a lot of confidence. I believe in my horse. I think it's going to set up perfectly for him. They're all very competitive horses and I think he can put himself in good position."
Perhaps the most unique perspective on the Florida Derby field belongs to Castellano, who has ridden half the contenders. In addition to Constitution, he piloted Wildcat Red to a 4 3/4-length victory in the Hutcheson on February 1, and was second by a head aboard General a Rod in the Fountain of Youth on February 22 behind Wildcat Red.
Castellano also held the reins on Allstar for his second lifetime start, a maiden claiming race on the Gulfstream turf on January 4, and was the regular rider for injured Honor Code, who handed Cairo Prince his only career defeat by a nose in the Remsen at Aqueduct last November.
"That's going to be a huge advantage for myself in how I need to make any decision in the race as soon as they open the gate," Castellano said. "I know most of the horses, even Cairo Prince. We hooked up a couple times together in New York and I know his style and how he likes to run and his best place to move. I think it's going to help give me more of an idea of when I have to make a good decision in the race."
Wildcat Red will break from the rail in the eight-horse field. Through March 25, post one produced the second-most winners in dirt route races at the meet at 16 percent (25 for 165). The most successful post is No. 2 (35-165, 21 percent), which will be occupied by Matator in the Florida Derby.
"He's quick enough; I just hope that he behaves well in the gate and breaks good enough to be in a comfortable position," Velazquez said. "If nobody goes, he's probably going to be on the lead, anyway. If somebody goes crazy, I can sit second or third. That would be the best-case scenario, that I can save him for the end and have something to fight with."
Wildcat Red has shown a tenacity to match his talent, evidenced by his head victory over General a Rod in the Fountain of Youth where he also broke from the rail, and a head loss to that same rival in the Gulfstream Park Derby.
"You see the statistics, the one is a very good post position," Garoffalo said. "We'll see what happens. He proved that he likes the inside. The last race he went inside all the way and he made it. When you get post position one, you depend on the break. That's going to be the key of the race. But he always breaks good and he's got speed, so I don't think it's going to be a big deal."
Velazquez has won the Florida Derby twice, with eventual Kentucky Derby winner Orb last year and Quality Road in 2009.
"It's a great prep going to the Triple Crown, a very important race," he said. "A lot of good horses come from here. I just hope that I am the one that wins it again."
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