July 4, 2022

Florida Derby top three doing well, headed for rematch in Kentucky

Last updated: 3/30/14 4:26 PM

Florida Derby top three doing well, headed for rematch in

(L to R) General a Rod, Wildcat Red and Constitution are likely to face off yet again on the first Saturday in May

(Adam Coglianese Photography)

Constitution emerged from his gutsy victory in
Saturday’s Grade 1 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park in
good order, trainer Todd Pletcher reported.

“He came out of (the Florida Derby)
really well. He returned home to Palm Meadows this morning and seemed to be in
good shape,” Pletcher said Sunday afternoon while being honored as the leading
trainer Gulfstream’s Champions Meet for the 11th consecutive year.

Now undefeated in three career starts, all coming during
Gulfstream Park’s Champions Meet, Constitution saved ground behind pacesetter
Wildcat Red before slipping through an opening along the rail turning for home
and going on to win a stretch battle with the Fountain of Youth
winner by a neck.

The Kentucky-bred colt was making his stakes debut in the
Florida Derby, while running 1 1/8 miles in 1:49 under Javier Castellano, who
was honored Sunday for winning his third consecutive Champions Meet jockey title in a

“He’s a horse that has progressed a lot over the winter. He broke his
maiden in January, won an allowance in February and he won the Florida Derby in
just his third start — that’s pretty impressive,” said Pletcher, who trains the
son of Tapit for the partnership of Twin Creeks Racing Stables and WinStar Farm.

Constitution will continue to train for Triple Crown at
Palm Meadows, Gulfstream Park’s satellite training facility in Palm Beach
County. For how long has yet to be determined.

“I’m not a 100 percent sure yet. I’m thinking about 12 days
before. I’d like to have one work at Churchill,” Pletcher explained. “I’ll just have
to see how the weather is here and how the weather is there. I’ll have to see
how things go about flight arrangements and things like that.”

A stubborn runner-up in the Florida Derby, Florida-bred Wildcat Red will
remain at Gulfstream Park to prepare for his next start as well.

Trainer Jose Garoffalo said Sunday morning he will point
the Grade 2 victor to the first leg of the Triple Crown on May 3
at Churchill Downs after his neck loss to Constitution.

Wildcat Red would not give up to Constitution without a fight in the Florida Derby

(Adam Coglianese Photography)

“It was kind of bittersweet, but good. We’re happy with the horse,” Garoffalo
stated. “The horse did his job. We trained the horse to win the
race, but races are races. You can either win or lose. But the horse showed that
he can go longer, and proved to a lot of people that they were wrong. In a way,
there are a lot of positive points.

“We still have to evaluate the horse. We’ll
give him two or three days to check how the horse is doing, but according to the
way he came back everything seems that we’re going to go to Louisville.”

Red has four wins and three seconds in seven starts, all at Gulfstream Park,
including the seven-furlong Hutcheson and 8 1/2-furlong Fountain of Youth.

Garoffalo is not concerned about shipping the son of Grade
1-winning sprinter D’wildcat or running on a new track.

“We’re going to be there
maybe a week before and let the horse adapt to the track,” he said. “He’s the
kind of horse that can run on any track. I’m not afraid of the track or if he’s
going to handle it. We will give him the opportunity to know the track. We’re
probably going to work here and we’ll only gallop there. He’s a smart horse.”

Purchased for $30,000 last June, Wildcat Red has now
banked $690,850 for Garoffalo and owner Honors Stable Corp., neither of whom have had a Triple Crown starter.

“He is a monster,” Garoffalo declared. “He’s the kind of horse
that you don’t see too often. He’s got the heart, he’s got the guts. He’s
amazing. He’s a once-in-a-lifetime horse.”

While Constitution and Wildcat Red remain in Florida for now, General a Rod left Gulfstream Park early Sunday morning on
a flight back to trainer Mike Maker’s base in Kentucky, where he will continue
on the Triple Crown trail.

The Roman Ruler colt emerged from his third-place finish in
the Florida Derby in good shape according to Maker’s assistant Elesar Chavez.

Maker flew back to Kentucky after saddling Vicar’s In
Trouble to a win the Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds. Owned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, Vicar’s
In Trouble did his final work for the Fair Grounds race at Gulfstream.

“He came back really good,” Chavez said of General a Rod. “He came back like it was nothing. He was fine. I talked to Mike this morning
and told him the horse came back really good, but he needed a little bit more
teaching of how to pass the other horses. Mike said he was happy to be third,
the way the horse ran.”

Winner of the Gulfstream Park Derby on New Year’s Day and second in
the February 22 Fountain of Youth to Wildcat Red, General a
Rod dueled with that rival through six furlongs in 1:12 before giving way in the
Florida Derby. He was beaten 1 1/2 lengths by Constitution, finishing 2 1/4 lengths
ahead of multiple Grade 2 winner and 6-5 favorite Cairo Prince.

General a Rod has raced once previously at Churchill Downs,
finishing second to Conquest Titan in a one-mile, entry-level allowance on November

“He beat some nice horses,” Chavez said. “I asked Mike what
he thought and he said he proved he could run, and he’s going to make a couple
changes so he can run better next time. He said if everything is well, he is
going to go on to the next one.”

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