Viola’s Known Agenda prevails in Florida Derby at Gulfstream

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. — Everything is going Vincent Viola’s way these days.

He owns the Florida Panthers, and they’re well on their way to the Stanley Cup playoffs. And he also owns Known Agenda, who is now well on his way to the Kentucky Derby.

Known Agenda ran away from the field in the Florida Derby on Saturday, and might keep on going all the way to Churchill Downs to start the Triple Crown season. Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. guided Known Agenda to the win in the Grade 1, $750,000 race at Gulfstream Park, picking up 100 Kentucky Derby standings points – which will be more than enough to qualify him for that race in five weeks.

“I certainly hope so,” winning trainer Todd Pletcher said.

Pletcher won the Florida Derby for the sixth time, and Known Agenda covered the 1 1/8 miles on the dirt in 1 minutes, 49.45 seconds. He returned $12.80 for the win, $6.60 to place and $3.20 to show.

Soup and Sandwich was second and heavily favored Greatest Honour – who came into the race with more than enough points to get into the Kentucky Derby – settled for third. Greatest Honour ran into traffic coming out of the gate and was nowhere near the front as the group headed into the first turn, though settled in along the rail and simply waited for an opening.

By the time he found open space, it was too late. Known Agenda was gone.

“He ran terrific,” Pletcher said. “I was so happy to see him progressing up the backside. He kept moving, improving his position the whole way. He ran great.”

Soup and Sandwich picked up 40 Derby standings points, and Greatest Honour got 20.

In other full-point Derby prep races Saturday:

UAE DERBY

Rebel’s Romance rolled to an easy win in Saturday’s UAE Derby at Dubai, earning 100 points in the Kentucky Derby standings and essentially clinching a spot in the field – though it remains unknown if owner Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum and trainer Charlie Appleby will send him over. Panadol was second and New Treasure was third.

JEFF RUBY STEAKS

Like The King survived an objection that was made postrace and prevailed in the Jeff Ruby Steaks at Turfway Park, also earning 100 points toward qualifying for the Kentucky Derby. Sainthood was second and Hockey Dad was third.

Pegasus races planned for Gulfstream and Santa Anita in 2024

Horse racing on Opening day of the winter-spring meet at Santa Anita Park.
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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – After seven Pegasus World Cup events, it’s evidently time for change.

1/ST Racing, which has hosted the entirety of the Pegasus series to this point at Gulfstream Park, is planning for two Pegasus days in 2024 – one at Gulfstream and the other at Santa Anita. Details aren’t finalized and it’s unclear how it would fit in the racing calendar, but 1/ST is planning for both dirt and turf Pegasus races as part of the Santa Anita program.

Gulfstream played host to the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational on the dirt Saturday, along with the $1 million Pegasus Turf and the $500,000 Pegasus Filly and Mare Turf.

“I’d really love to see that we bring it to the West Coast,” 1/ST President and CEO Belinda Stronach said. “That will probably happen in 2024. What we did this year for 2023 was said, `OK, we have a number of great race days, let’s coordinate those better and call it the 1/ST Racing Tour and recognize great achievements within our own footprint.”

Saturday marked the first stop on that new 1/ST Racing Tour. Along with some of the biggest race days at 1/ST tracks – like Florida Derby day at Gulfstream on April 1, Santa Anita Derby day on April 8 and the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on May 20 – there are a pair of days where the tour will be running simultaneously.

This coming Saturday, Gulfstream will play host to the Holy Bull while Santa Anita has the Robert B. Lewis – both of them Kentucky Derby prep races.

And on March 4, Gulfstream has the Fountain of Youth, another major Derby prep, while San Anita has the Big Cap. Plans call for coordinated post times at those two tracks on those days to provide the best racing action every 20 minutes, as well as some unique betting options.

“We can never rest on our laurels,” Stronach said. “We have to keep moving forward. We have a great team that’s really committed.”

The main Pegasus race is one of the biggest-paying races in North America. Art Collector claimed about $1.8 million from a $3 million purse with his win on Saturday. In 2022, only the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic and $4 million Breeders’ Cup Turf featured bigger prizes among U.S. races, and the $3 million Pegasus purse is equal to the one offered last year at the Kentucky Derby.

Regardless of what happens with the Santa Anita plan for future Pegasus events, Stronach insisted Gulfstream will continue having Pegasus days. There has even been talk about Gulfstream playing host to Breeders’ Cup races again, something that hasn’t happened since 1999.

“This is staying here in Miami,” Stronach said. “Pegasus has a home here in Miami. We can’t move Pegasus from Miami. We have great partners here and it’s more than just a day now. We have deep roots here in Miami.”

Arabian Knight earns Baffert record 6th win in Southwest

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Arabian Knight won the $750,000 Southwest Stakes by 5 1/2 lengths at Oaklawn, giving Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert his record sixth victory in the race.

The colt came into the Kentucky Derby prep as one of the most highly touted 3-year-olds in the country. Arabian Knight, who was purchased for $2.3 million as a 2-year-old, was making his second career start and first on a sloppy track in front of 27,000 fans in Arkansas.

“These good horses are hard to come by,” said Baffert, who was on hand in Hot Springs. “We’ve had a lot of luck here at Oaklawn, so it was nice to have a horse like this.”

However, Arabian Knight was ineligible to earn the Kentucky Derby qualifying points awarded to the winner because Baffert has been suspended for two years by Churchill Downs Inc. The penalty, which ends shortly after this year’s Derby on May 6, stems from Medina Spirit’s medication violation after the colt won the 2021 Derby and was later disqualified. Baffert is challenging the ban in court.

Ridden by John Velazquez, Arabian Knight ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:43.50 and paid $2.80 to win. He is 2-0 and has career earnings of $544,275.

“He ran 1:43 and change, that’s racehorse time and he did it without taking a deep breath,” Baffert said. “This was a big effort.”

Red Route One closed from last to finish second, and Frosted Departure was third. Sun Thunder was fourth, followed by Jace’s Road, Corona Bolt, El Tomate and Western Ghent.

At Gulfstream in Florida, Baffert’s entry Defunded finished second in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup, beaten by 4 1/2 lengths by Art Collector on Saturday.