Tiz the Law set as favorite for Saturday’s Florida Derby

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MIAMI — The Florida Derby is set to have a full field and empty stands.

A field of 12 has been entered for Saturday’s Florida Derby, typically one of the biggest Kentucky Derby prep races and serves as the crown jewel of the Championship Meet at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Florida. That won’t be the case this year, of course, with the coronavirus pandemic keeping virtually everyone — bettors, fans and even owners — away from the track for safety and health reasons.

Tiz the Law, a winner of three of his four career starts including the Holy Bull at Gulfstream last month, was installed as the 6-5 favorite at Wednesday’s race draw. Fountain of Youth winner Ete Indien, who ran second to Tiz the Law in the Holy Bull, was installed as the 4-1 second choice followed by Independence Hall (9-2).

Tiz the Law’s connections have hoped this would be the race to provide them with enough points to clinch a spot in the Kentucky Derby, which has already been rescheduled from May to September. The Florida Derby winner gets 100 points, the runner-up gets 50, and either of those places would be enough for Tiz the Law to wrap up a spot.

“We’re still hoping that, even though the Derby now has been moved four months,” Tiz the Law owner Jack Knowlton said.

If all 12 entrants go to the post – that’s the biggest field Gulfstream can have for this race – it would be the largest Florida Derby field since 2008. The purse was cut earlier this week from $1 million to $750,000, a change that was made because there won’t be any on-track handle for the race and because Gulfstream has also shut down its on-track casino in recent days.

Gulfstream Park has been racing without fans for more than a week, and plans to continue through Sunday’s end of its meet. A handful of tracks around the country have remained open, which trainers like Todd Pletcher have said is important. But no one knows how long racing will continue, with the pandemic only seeming to be growing in the U.S.

“It’s just been a frustrating time for everyone,” said Pletcher, who has 8-1 shot Gouverneur Morris in the field for Saturday. “So, juggling some horse schedules seems like unimportant stuff considering what’s going on in the rest of the world.”

When the horses cross the finish line after their 1 1/8 mile run Saturday they’ll be headed toward an uncertain future. Races like the Florida Derby are often preps for the Triple Crown races, starting with the Kentucky Derby. But with virtually everything on hold, it’s going to be difficult for owners and trainers to make a plan for the spring and summer. The rescheduled Arkansas Derby on May 2 may provide an option, or owners and trainers may simply give their horses a long layoff.

“Nobody knows what any next races may be,” Knowlton said. “It’s a blank sheet in front of us with no idea where we go, what we do.”

Tiz the Law, Independence Hall and Gouverneur Morris were all sired by Constitution, the 2014 Florida Derby winner. Tiz the Law drew the No. 7 post, Independence Hall will start from the No. 9 position and Gouverneur Morris will be in the No. 5 spot in the gate.

The rest of the field, from the rail out: No. 1 As Seen On TV (12-1), No. 2 Shivaree (30-1), No. 3 Disc Jockey (20-1), No. 4 Soros (30-1), Gouverneur Morris, No. 6 Ajaaweed (20-1), Tiz the Law, No. 8 My First Grammy (50-1), Independence Hall, No. 10 Candy Tycoon (20-1), No. 11 Sassy But Smart (50-1) and Ete Indien.

Pegasus on Jan. 28, Florida Derby on April 1 at Gulfstream

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. — Gulfstream Park announced the schedule for the 2022-23 Championship Meet, highlighted by the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational on Jan. 28.

Also on Pegasus day: The $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational, as well as the $500,000 Pegasus World Cup Filly & Mare Turf.

Gulfstream’s top Kentucky Derby prep race, the $1 million Florida Derby, will be run on April 1 as part of a card with 10 stakes races. Other top 3-year-old preps at Gulfstream in early 2023 include the $150,000 Mucho Macho Man on Jan. 1, the $250,000 Holy Bull on Feb. 4 and the $400,000 Fountain of Youth on March 4.

The Pegasus is returning for a seventh time. The format has changed several times in the race’s infancy; the purse structure for the Pegasus World Cup no longer requires owners to put up $1 million apiece for a spot in the starting gate for what was, at its inception, the world’s richest race with a purse that reached $16 million.

This much has remained constant: Winning the Pegasus changes a horse’s resume. No Pegasus winner has ever finished worse than sixth in the yearlong earnings among North American horses, and two past winners – Arrogate and Gun Runner – are two of the three highest-earning thoroughbreds in U.S. history.

Gulfstream’s Championship Meet runs from Dec. 26 through April 2, featuring 60 stakes races, 35 of them graded, and worth a combined $13.6 million.

Stradivarius, 3-time Ascot Gold Cup winner, retired to stud

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LONDON – Stradivarius, one of the most famous racehorses in Britain and Ireland after winning the Gold Cup at Ascot three times, has been retired to stud.

Bjorn Nielsen, the owner of Stradivarius, said he felt it would be unfair to make the horse come back next season as a 9-year-old after time away with a bruised foot.

“It has been a fairytale from start to finish,” Nielsen told British newspaper The Racing Post.

Stradivarius, bred in Ireland and the son of Sea The Stars, won 20 of his 35 races – including seven Group One races – and earned almost 3.5 million pounds (now $3.8 million) in prize money.

Stradivarius won four Goodwood Cups, three Yorkshire Cups and two Doncaster Cups.