Sunday, March 29, 2009

Quality Road Wins 2009 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park March 28

Pulling away in the stretch, Edward Evans’ Kentucky Derby contender Quality Road held off previously unbeaten Dunkirk to win the 58th running of Gulfstream Park’s $750,000 Florida Derby, giving the colt his second graded stakes win in as many starts and a possible spot in the Kentucky Derby field.

Quality Road paid $4.40, $2.40 and $2.10, and finished the 2009 Florida Derby in a track-record 1:47.72 over 1 1/8 miles. Dunkirk, who needed a win to cinch a spot in the Kentucky Derby entries list, was second by nearly 2 lengths and paid $2.40 and $2.10. Theregoesjojo was third, paying $2.10.

“It’s a lot of pressure,” said trainer Jimmy Jerkens, who’s taking a horse from his barn into the Kentucky Derby, horse racing’s most famed race, for the first time. “But you know, it’s good to be in that position.”

Quality Road settled in near the lead, as Dunkirk loomed about seven lengths back. With about three furlongs remaining, jockey Garrett Gomez gave Dunkirk the signal to go–and got an immediate response, as his horse made a sweeping move and got to the front.

“I’ve got to give it to my horse,” said winning jockey Velazquez, who turned down a chance to run in the $6 million Dubai World Cup on Saturday so he could stay with Quality Road, who’s now won 3 of his 4 career starts. “As soon as I asked him, he went for me, he responded and he went away. Definitely a great feeling.”

It took about $165,000 in graded stakes earnings to get into last year’s Run for the Roses–Dunkirk now only has $150,000 in graded stakes earnings, meaning he’s squarely on the Kentucky Derby 135 bubble. Dunkirk could have gone elsewhere, the Wood Memorial or the Illinois Derby, and faced perhaps a lesser foe than Quality Road, but race horse trainer Todd Pletcher made the call to stay at Gulfstream Park.

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