As one of the most important final prep races for the Kentucky Derby, the Florida Derby results are an important handicapping tool for anyone betting the first leg of the Triple Crown. A Grade 1 race for horses aged three, the Florida Derby is run at the distance of 1 1/8 miles on the dirt course at Gulfstream Park in Hallendale Beach, Florida. The race offers a total purse of $1 million, and is run in April every year. With more than 60 years of history behind it, the Florida Derby winners’ list includes some of the all-time great names in American racing, with legendary horses such as Northern Dancer, Spectacular Bid, Unbridled and others.  

Florida Derby Picks

The Florida Derby is not only the biggest race in the Gulfstream calendar, it’s also a good preview of what might be to come in the Triple Crown, and getting your Florida Derby picks down with one of these recommended racebooks is the best way to get in on all the action. 

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Florida Derby Entries

Typically, horses that have won or otherwise had good results in the previous two Gulfstream-based Derby prep races – the Holy Bull and Fountain of Youth Stakes – will show up to run in the Florida Derby.

As a win in the race is worth 100 points toward the Kentucky Derby qualification series, and given that it is run just a few weeks prior to the Run for the Roses, it’s not unusual for top-class horses that have not been racing in Florida to also draw into the field.

This combination of factors almost always ensures a highly competitive race, and that translates into good value-betting opportunities.   

How To Win Florida Derby Bets

A look at the recent past winners of the Florida Derby presents an interesting challenge for handicappers, as the past five winners have a mixed bag of races and results coming into the race. Last year’s winner, Nyquist, was a certified star prior to the Florida, having gone undefeated through his first six lifetime starts, with four of those graded-stakes wins, including the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

The year prior to that, Materiality was only making his third lifetime start when he won Florida, and came in off a win in a minor handicap at Gulfstream Park. The 2014 winner, Constitution, had an even thinner resume, as the Florida Derby was his first lifetime stakes start. 

In 2013, Orb was seen as a (relative) late bloomer, as he had needed four races to get his first lifetime win, but after starting his career racing in New York, he took very well to the Gulfstream dirt and won the Fountain of Youth Stakes as a prep for his Florida Derby win.

Take Charge Indy, in 2012, was an experienced runner for a three-year-old colt, with three graded-stakes starts to his name, but no wins, prior to taking the Florida Derby crown.

What’s important to note is that whatever the level of competition, all of these horses won their race prior to running in the Florida Derby (with the exception of Take Charge Indy, who was second, but more than 13 lengths ahead of the third-place runner). It’s an indication that handicappers should give strong consideration to horses that appear to be in peak condition and at the top of their training cycle going into the big race.