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Florida Derby 2024 | Why Le Dom Bro Will Win [Kentucky Derby]
Le Dom Bro (NYRA)

Florida Derby 2024 | Why Le Dom Bro Will Win [Kentucky Derby]

Dr. Miranda explains why she thinks Le Dom Bro will win the 2024 Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park, a prep race for the Kentucky Derby (G1).

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The press release:

Repole Stable’s Fierceness will seek a return to championship form in the $1 million Curlin Florida Derby (G1) presented by Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms at Xalapa Saturday at Gulfstream Park following a disappointing 2024 debut in the Feb. 3 Holy Bull (G3).

The 73rd running of the prestigious 1 1/8-mile stakes for 3-year-olds will headline a 14-race program with 10 stakes, five graded, worth $2.425 million in purses.

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Coming off a 6 ¼-length victory in the Nov. 3 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) that earned the son of City of Light an Eclipse Award as the 2023 champion 2-year-old male, Fierceness finished third as the 1-5 favorite in the 1 1/16-mile Holy Bull (G3) Feb. 3 following a troubled start and wide trip. The Repole homebred, who finished 3 ¾ lengths behind front-running winner Hades in the Holy Bull, has been installed as the 8-5 morning-line favorite in a field of 11. Hall of Famer John Velazquez has the return mount.

Fierceness will make a bid to provide Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher with a record-extending eighth Florida Derby victory.

“With Fierceness his Breeders’ Cup Juvenile was so impressive. He trained so well leading up to the Holy Bull I think expectations were just so high for him, and I think people kind of lose sight a little bit of exactly what went on in the race,” said Pletcher, who saddled Forte for a victory in last season’s Curlin Florida Derby. “I’ve watched the replay several times and he got sandwiched pretty hard leaving the gate, and then Johnny had to use him quite a bit to get to the position we wanted. I think that because our expectations were so high, we just thought he could overcome anything. I think it was a legitimate excuse.”

Pletcher has reason to believe that Fierceness is capable of bouncing back from a subpar effort with a peak performance. Fierceness finished off the board in the Oct. 7 Champagne (G1) at Aqueduct as the odds-on favorite prior to dazzling in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita a month later.

“The horse has come back and breezed really well, as he always has, so we’re hoping to rebound. He’s shown that he can do that before,” Pletcher said. “He had a similar rough trip in the Champagne and got bounced around at the start in there and didn’t run his ‘A’ race but came back in the Breeders’ Cup and did.”

Pletcher and Repole Stable will also be represented in the field by Bail Us Out, a son of Lookin’ At Lucky who most recently graduated at 1-1/16 miles on Tapeta in his second career start.

“He’s definitely a two-turn horse. The question is: Is he good enough? He’s certainly bred to go that far,” Pletcher said. “I think the added distance is going to help him. It’s an ambitious placing, but we figured it was worth one shot.”

Fierceness drew Post 10, while Bail Us Out will break from Post 3 under Irad Ortiz Jr.

D. J. Stable LLC and Robert Cotran’s Hades will bring an undefeated record that includes his dominant Holy Bull victory over Fierceness into the Curlin Florida Derby. The son of Awesome Slew graduated at 5 ½ furlongs in his Dec. 9 debut before scoring by eight lengths in a seven-furlong optional claiming allowance for Florida-breds Dec. 31. In his first start around two turns in the Holy Bull, the 3-year-old gelding withstood race-long pressure while setting the pace before drawing away to win by two lengths.

Trainer Joe Orseno has no definite race strategy set for Hades’ return in the Florida Derby, in which the Florida-bred gelding will break from Post 2.

“I think we’ll handicap the race and look at it the way it comes up. Our plan in the Holy Bull wasn’t exactly to go to the lead. We drew the 1 hole, so we decided it was probably our best plan of attack for the day,” Orseno said. “We’ll look at the race. We’ll play our cards the way they’re stacked.”

No matter how the Curlin Florida Derby unfolds, Orseno is confident that negotiating the 1 1/8 miles won’t be an issue for Hades.

“I think he’ll handle it. He’s done everything I’ve asked him to do,” Orseno said. “The last eighth, the last sixteenth, he finds another gear when he changes leads – and he takes off.”

Paco Lopez, who has been aboard for all three of Hades’ victories, has the return mount aboard the Orseno trainee, who has been rated third at 7-2 on the morning line.

Courtlandt Farms’ Conquest Warrior is rated second at 3-1 on the morning line for his stakes debut in the Curlin Florida Derby.

The strapping son of City of Light, a $1 million purchase at the 2022 Keeneland September sale, has won both of his starts during the 2023-2024 Championship Meet impressively. After rallying from far back to graduate at a mile in his second career start Jan. 13, Conquest Warrior stretched out around two turns for the first time with an eye-catching five-furlong triumph in a 1 1/8-mile optional claiming allowance.

Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey acknowledged what lies ahead for Conquest Warrior in the Curlin Florida Derby.

“It is a big step up. He’s going from a non-winners-of-one allowance race to a Grade 1 in the Florida Derby. He’s meeting some pretty challenging horses, but it’s time to see if we’re going to go on down the road the way we hope to,” McGaughey said. “He’s going to have to show up in the Florida Derby. It will be a nice test for him. There’s some nice horses in there. They’ve all be running in top-class races against some really nice horses.”

Conquest Warrior kicked off his career with a third-place finish Dec. 2 at seven furlongs over a muddy Aqueduct track.

“He always has trained good. He’s straightforward. He’s a big horse, so last year as a 2-year-old, I had to kind of just train him and train him to get him to where I wanted him. He took everything we threw at him,” said McGaughey, who saddled Orb for Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby (G1) victories in 2013. “I wanted to run him before I brought him down here, so we ran him up there to just get a race into him before I had to move him around. He’s answered the call since he’s been down here.”

Jose Ortiz, who was aboard for Conquest Warrior’s two wins, has the return mount.

Frank DeLuca’s Frankie’s Empire, who captured the seven-furlong Swale by 3 ½ lengths on the Holy Bull undercard, enters the Curlin Florida Derby off an even third-place finish behind victorious Dornoch in the March 2 Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park.

“He’s going the right way. Everything’s been positive. He trains well and seems to like the racetrack,” trainer Michael Yates, said. “We just try not to get in his way too much and hopefully he keeps moving forward.”

Miguel Vasquez has the return mount aboard the son of Classic Empire, who will break from Post 1.

Vincente Stella Stables LLC’s Le Dom Bro, who finished second behind Frankie’s Empire in the Swale, got the better of him by a neck while finishing second in the 1 1/16-mile Fountain of Youth. The Eniel Cordero-trained son of Mucho Macho Man, who will be ridden by Edwin Gonzalez in the Curlin Florida Derby, has been first or second in five of six starts, his only off-the-board finish coming in a ninth-place finish behind Dornoch in the Remsen (G2) over a muddy Aqueduct track Dec. 2.

Grand Mo the First, who finished third behind Frankie’s Empire and Le Dom Bro in the Swale, enters the Curlin Florida Derby off a subsequent third-place finish in the March 9 Tampa Bay Derby (G2), in which he finished just a neck behind victorious Domestic Product, who had previously finished second behind Hades in the Holy Bull, 1 ½ lengths ahead of Fierceness.

Emisael Jaramillo, who guided Grand Mo the First to victory in the son of Uncle Mo’s first two career starts last year over Gulfstream’s Tapeta surface.

Reeves Thoroughbred Racing and partners’ Real Macho, who finished an even fourth in the Fountain of Youth; Tami Bobo, Julie Davies and George Isaacs’ Catalytic, a winner of one of two career starts; Brad Grady and David Grund’s Seminole Chief, a recent optional claiming allowance winner who captured the $300,000 FSS In Reality Dec. 2; and Iris Cotto’s Iris’s Dream, who most recently graduated by seven lengths in a two-turn turf event in his third career start; round out the Curlin Florida Derby field.