Florida Derby Day: Notes and Tips for the Casual Bettor

In “normal” years, the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park is considered one of the biggest Kentucky Derby prep races on the schedule. That’s still true for this year, but the Kentucky Derby will be run five months from now, not the customary five weeks from now.

Twenty-four Florida Derby runners have gone on to win the Kentucky Derby, which is more than any other prep race (Courtesy America’s Best Racing). The winner of the Florida Derby went on to win the Kentucky Derby in 2013, 2016, 2017, and 2019 (Maximum Security won, but we all know what happened afterward). Trainer Todd Pletcher has won the Florida Derby five times, including four out of the last six. Jockey John Velazquez has won the Florida Derby five times.

  • When is the Florida Derby?

The Florida Derby will be run on Saturday, March 28. There are 14 races on the card, with the first race scheduled for 11:30 a.m. The Florida Derby is the last race on the card, tentatively scheduled for 6:36 p.m.

  • What’s at stake?

Let’s start with the payday. There will be a guaranteed purse of $750,000, with approximately $450,000 of that going to the winning connections. More importantly, there are 170 Kentucky Derby points up for grabs, with the winner receiving 100 and virtually guaranteeing a spot at Churchill Downs in September.

  • What’s on the undercard?

According to Horse Racing Nation, Gulfstream had originally scheduled a trio of stakes races for Friday, but will instead run those races on Saturday. That means that there are now ten stakes races on the Florida Derby card, including the $200,000 Gulfstream Park Oaks for three-year-old fillies, and the $200,000 Pan American for older turf horses.

Zulu Alpha headlines the Pan American (Race 12) as one of the busiest horses in the country. Trained by Michael Maker, Zulu Alpha has run 11 graded stakes races since January 2019 and has won five of them. He’s coming off back-to-back wins at Gulfstream Park in the G1 Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational and G2 Mac Miarmida. The Gulfstream Park Oaks (Race 11) is one of the top prep races leading into the Kentucky Oaks for fillies. Tonalist’s Shape is undefeated, with all five of her wins coming at Gulfstream. Chad Brown’s Newspaperofrecord will be competing in the Sand Spring Stakes (Race 9). The turf star won all three of her races as a two-year-old, including the Breeders Cup Juvenile, but lost all three starts last year as a three-year-old.

  • Who’s the favorite for the Florida Derby?

Tiz the Law has opened as the 6-to-5 favorite on the morning line, followed by Ete Indien (4-to-1) and Independence Hall (9-to-2). Tiz the Law has won three of his four starts, including a win over Ete Indien at Gulfstream Park on February 1. Ete Indien rebounded from the loss in the Holy Bull to win the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream four weeks later. Independence Hall has won three of his four starts, but has never run at Gulfstream. Independence Hall’s sire, Constitution, won the Florida Derby in 2014.

  • How much can I win?

Slow down, champ! But seriously, the payouts on Saturday should be pretty good. There will be a mandatory payout of the $0.20 Rainbow 6 (Races 9-14). Obviously these are unusual times and it’s tough to predict anything, but the Rainbow 6 pool should be north of $5 million by the time the ninth race gets started. To play the Rainbow 6, you need to pick the winner of the last six races on the card. Each combination you choose comes in $0.20 increments. The more horses you add, the more coverage you have, but the more your ticket will eventually cost. But when there’s $5+ million in the pool, these are usually the days where you don’t mind spending a little more.

  • I have more questions, where can I go?

Twitter – Sig has been handicapping the Championship Meet at Gulfstream Park for years. Few people know that track better than him. Marco has been involved in owning and breeding horses since 1986. Fire any questions that you have over to them.


YouTube – On Friday at 1:00 p.m. EST, Marco and Sig will be hosting The Pony Pundits on WagerTalk’s YouTube channel. They will answer your questions and preview Saturday’s card.

Horse Racing 101 – The WagerTalk team put together a collection of videos and betting terminology to help the casual horse bettor. How do payouts work? What’s the morning line? We do our best to answer them all.