HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Trainer Todd Pletcher’s Audible set a solid mid-pack trip before rewarding his trainer on Saturday with his second straight victory in the Grade 1, $1,000,000 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park.
Breaking from post 8 as the 8-5 favorite under John Velazquez, Audible sat off while Promises Fulfilled and Strike Power blazed lightning-quick initial splits of :21.95 and :46.37. As the leaders began to weaken, Audible made his move four-wide around the far turn and wrestled away command. Hitting the top of the stretch with the lead, Audible held firm while kept to task, crossing 3 lengths ahead of Hofburg in a final time of 1:49.48 for the 1 1/8-mile main track event.
“It played out the way I thought it was going to be,” Velazquez said. “I talked to Todd, and we thought there were the two horses with speed, and (Mississippi) was wearing blinkers for the first time, so we figured he’d probably come out running. I wanted to come out running and I had to use my horse to get position on the first turn. I was in the spot I wanted to be in going into the backstretch, and after that, I was pretty happy. The only thing that concerned me was when he got to the backstretch, he started backing up a little bit. I thought I was overdoing it, so I had to give him a little chance on the backstretch to regroup again, and once he got his stride back together and when he started moving again on the backstretch, I was very happy with the way he was doing it.”
Fresh off of a maiden-breaking effort here on March 3, Hofburg was an impressive second-place finisher, clearing third-place Mississippi by 7 3/4 lengths. Catholic Boy was well-positioned to take advantage of the hot early pace but never responded and finished fourth. Millionaire Runner crossed in fifth, 15 1/4 lengths past the remaining foes. Tip Sheet, Storm Runner, Strike Power, and Promises Fulfilled completed the order of finish.
The Florida Derby is part of the Road to the 2018 Kentucky Derby prep race season. Audible earned 100 points for the win, with Hofburg receiving 40 for second, Mississippi 20 for third, and Catholic Boy 10 for fourth.
Audible’s win was his fourth straight and improved his record to 5-4-0-1 with career earnings of $882,920. The son of Into Mischief is owned by the partnership of China Horse Club, Head of Plains Partners, Starlight Racing, and WinStar Farm.
“The race unfolded with the pace that we were hoping for, and we wanted to get some position into the first turn, which he was able to do beautifully,” Pletcher said. “Just watching the race, I was a little concerned at the 5/8-pole because he started to drop back a little bit, but I could tell Johnny wasn’t panicked. He kind of grabbed him up, and sometime midway down the backstretch, he started to pick up horses, and I started to feel better and better. You could tell the pace up front had developed pretty swiftly, so you felt like those horses were going to start to come back at some stage.”
Audible returned $5.20 to win, $4 to place, and $3 to show. Hofburg brought back $7.20 to place and $4.40 to show, while Mississippi paid $5 to show.