Gulfstream Park

Florida Derby’s top finishers fine for next races


Special to The Miami Herald

The top three finishers from Saturday’s Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park appeared physically sound Sunday, according to their trainers, and are ready to resume training for their next races.

For Orb and Itsmyluckyday, Saturday’s winner and second-place finisher, that will be the Kentucky Derby on May 4 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.

But Bob Hess is resisting the temptation to get Merit Man, his surprise third-place Florida Derby finisher, into the 20-horse Kentucky Derby field.

Merit Man earned $100,000 for finishing third in the Florida Derby, a 1 1/8-mile Grade 1 race with a $1 million purse.

He also moved from zero to 20 in qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby. He is one of six horses tied for 18th place.

Hess said he will not run Merit Man in any of the remaining Kentucky Derby prep races, where he might get enough points to make the Kentucky Derby field.

It will probably require between 35 and 40 points to get into that race. Instead, Hess said he will consider Merit Man for the 1 3/16-mile Preakness on May 18 at Pimlico in Baltimore or several stakes of 1 1/8 miles or shorter at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y.

“The race shaped up like we hoped,” Hess said of the Florida Derby. “I was very pleased with how he ran.”

Merit Man was 29-1 in the 10-horse field. He took the lead, as expected, and was not pressed by other horses through a relatively slow half mile in 24.74 seconds and three-quarters of a mile in 1:12.89. He held on gamely when challenged first by Itsmyluckyday and finished 4 3/4 lengths behind Orb.

Orb, trained by Shug McGaughey, is first in Kentucky Derby qualifying points with 150. Itsmyluckyday, trained by Eddie Plesa Jr., is tied for fifth with 50 points.

The Kentucky Derby prep race trail will resume Saturday with the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct in Ozone Park, N.Y., and the Santa Anita Derby in Arcadia, Calif. Both are Grade 1 races at 1 1/8 miles and have qualifying points of 100, 40, 20 and 10 for the first four finishers.

Sunday’s stakes

Swear Me In crossed the finish line first in Sunday’s $70,000 Secret Grace Stakes at Gulfstream.

But she was disqualified and placed third for interference on the final turn of the one-mile turf stakes for 3-year-old fillies.

Coarsegold, who finished second by three-quarters of a length, was declared the winner by the stewards. They moved Coffee Clique from third to second and placed Swear Me In third.

The victory was the second in seven starts and first in a stakes for Coarsegold, who was ridden by Joe Bravo and is trained by Mar Hennig.

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