Todd Pletcher notched another win in the Florida Derby and put his Known Agenda in the Kentucky Derby mix.
Irad Ortiz fresh off tying the record of Luis Saez for the most wins at the Gulfstream Park Championship meet added to his total by getting Known Agenda up over the game Soup and Sandwich.
Irad Ortiz Jr. set the single-season Championship Meet win record in style Saturday at Gulfstream Park, guiding St. Elias Stable’s homebred Known Agenda to a 2 ¾-length victory in the $750,000 Curlin Florida Derby (G1) presented by Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms at Xalapa.
It was the first career win in Gulfstream’s signature race for the 28-year-old Ortiz and his 138th during the country’s premier winter stand, surpassing Luis Saez’s mark of 137 set in 2017-18. Ortiz approached the record in 2018-19, but finished with 135.
Greatest Honour the race favorite checked in third, but he already had enough points to get into the gate on the first Saturday in May.
Winning Time: 1:49.45
Winning Margins: 2 ¾, 3, 1 ¼
Winning Payoff: $12.80
Order of finish: Known Agenda, Soup and Sandwich, Greatest Honour, Nova Rags, Collaborate, Southern Passage, Papetu, Spielberg, Quantum Leap, Jirafales, Sigiloso
Betting favorite: Greatest Honour, 4-5
Todd Pletcher (Known Agenda, 1st): “It has so many great meanings but for me what is so special about this is to win it for St. Elias with a horse that they bred. I know how much that means to them, that makes it a little more extra special for us.”
“We were looking for a couple of things in that last race. One, to see if blinkers made an improvement in his being a little more tactical and secondly we wanted to see how he handled the Gulfstream surface. I thought we got very good answers to both of those questions. The only thing was we were taking a fairly significant step back in class. It wasn’t an overwhelming field, but the way he did it, to win by 11 anytime in a race like that, and [jockey] Irad [Ortiz Jr.] kind of wrapped up on him the last part, I thought it was not only an impressive race but a step in the right direction. It showed us that the blinkers helped and that he handled Gulfstream.”
“To be honest, he’s a horse that reminds us a lot of Vino Rosso. Personality-wise, obviously being a chestnut son of Curlin, but he’s taken a little while to kind of put everything together. We kept seeing talent in the mornings that he wasn’t necessarily displaying in the afternoon but we knew it was there. John Velazquez had ridden him in the Sam Davis and is recommendation was to put blinkers on him. I credit Johnny a lot for that, for making the recommendation. In Johnny’s case, he had some commitments out of town during the time that the horse was winning the allowance race so Irad picked up the mount and fit him perfectly and ridden him great both times.”
“I was really pleased with the progress he was making up the backside because one of the things we were a little bit worried about was if he got stuck inside, he didn’t seem to handle that in the Remsen very well. A lot of horses are more confident when they’re outside in the clear. When he was making progress up the backside and picking off horses while he was inside and behind horses, I had a pretty good feeling at that point that he was running his race today and that it was a matter of we’re going to find out how good he is.”
Mark Casse (Soup and Sandwich, 2nd): “I was very pleased, especially if he ever learns what he’s doing. [Jockey] Johnny [Velazquez] said he had to fight with him a little. He stayed on his left lead all the way down the stretch. He’s like that in the morning, too. The thing that will help him is it was a little difficult to ship him down from Palm Meadows. It got him a little worked up. He’ll run a lot better out of his stall at Churchill Downs.”
Shug McGaughey (Known Agenda, 3rd): “I thought we were OK on the turn there and he just didn’t kick on the way I thought he would.”
“I thought he ran fine. I think the winner ran a huge race. I’d have rather had a position a little closer and on the outside, so when he couldn’t kind of outrun them going into the first turn, he dropped him in there so when we were down in there. But, he said he handled the kickback fine so we’ll pack up and make sure he’s OK and move forward.”
Kentucky Derby? – “As of right now, yeah. We just have to see how he is. He belongs, as long as he’s OK.”
Bill Mott (Nova Rags, 4th): “He showed a tad bit more early speed than I thought he would. I was disappointed. He kind of got dogged a little bit from the outside. It would have been nice if he had a length lead on his own but there was another horse outside him kind of dogging him a little bit. He ran well. I don’t’ think it propels us to the Kentucky Derby, but I think he’s shown us that he’s a nice horse. He’s an honest horse, a trier. We’re going to have a lot of fun with him. We need to spot him around a little bit and we’ll have some fun.”
Saffie Joseph Jr. (Collaborate, 5th): “He got hung wide a bit but from where he was drawn, that was godo enough. If he got beat two or three lengths you could use that as an excuse but we didn’t. Basically from the quarter pole it looked like he was spent. It was a tough task putting him in there but we’ll regroup. It’s disappointing, obviously, because the talent I think he has, but there’s better days ahead. It was his first time going two turns. I thought he got a good enough trip that he should have done the job. I’m happy with the trip he got, he just didn’t have it.”
Irad Ortiz Jr. (Known Agenda, 1st): “It means a lot. The Derby is the biggest race we run here. It’s nice that I win the meet and I win that race, too. I feel great. It’s always special. Probably now I have a horse for the [Kentucky] Derby, if he stays sound and healthy. It’s always exciting.”
“The instructions were to try and stay as close as I can without going too crazy and start working my way out and put the horse in the clear outside. I saw a couple horses outside of me and I had to take a hold to go around and I said it was too much so I just followed the flow of the race. I had to go to the rail and it worked out great. When I took him out he started rolling.”
“I really like the way he handled the distance. He was better. I like that. He’s a classy horse. He’s not too crazy. You can do anything with him. He’s got a good mind.”
“It means a lot. We ride a lot of races here and I always like to win. We try all the time but we can’t win every meet. We try so hard and it’s special. My agent does hard work and I get a lot of support from the owners and trainers and I appreciate that. It means a lot honestly. I really like this meet. It’s like summer, good weather, and the people here are big fans. They support all the jockeys so I’m really happy.”
John Velazquez (Soup and Sandwich, 2nd): “I was expecting I was going to lay second the first part of the race and I inherited the lead a little bit. He was pretty strong the first part. I was surprised he was pulling that much. He kind of waited there until the competition came at the quarter pole and when we went the other horse was just a little better than him today.”
Jose Ortiz (Greatest Honour, 3rd): “He broke a little slow like he always does. I tried to be aggressive but I wasn’t fast enough to make it into a nice position so I had to take him back and drop in. Actually, I had Known Agenda in front of me and I followed him the whole way. At the three-eighths pole I kept following him. I felt like I was in contention at the quarter pole but the winner ran a nice race. He was the best horse today, but we’ll turn the tables on them on Derby day, that’s for sure.”
GULFSTREAM PARK Press Release and barn quotes.
GULFSTREAM PARK Photos, Ryan Thompson