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Code of Honor Tops Nominations for Xpressbet Florida Derby

by Gulfstream Park Press Release

March 22, 2019

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – W. S. Farish’s Code of Honor, who captured the $400,000 Fountain of Youth (G2) March 2, tops a list of 31 nominations for the $1 million Xpressbet.com Florida Derby (G1) March 30 at Gulfstream Park.

The Shug McGaughey-trained colt made a strong run on the final turn and through the stretch to register a three-quarters of a length triumph in the 1 1/16-mile Fountain of Youth, a key prep for the 1 1/8 mile stakes for 3-year-olds that has established itself as the premier Triple Crown prep since its inaugural running in 1952.

Code of Honor will seek to follow in the hoofprints of Orb, the McGaughey-trained winner of the 2013 Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby who went on to capture the Kentucky Derby (G1).

In the first 67 runnings of the Florida Derby, 44 starters went on to capture 59 Triple Crown events, including 24 Kentucky Derby champions, 19 Preakness winners and 16 Belmont victors.

The 68th Florida Derby will headline 11 stakes worth a total of more than $2.5 million scheduled for March 29-30. Gulfstream’s signature race for 3-year-olds will be supported by the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Mile (G2), the $250,000 Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2), the $250,000 Pan American (G2), the $125,000 Cutler Bay, the $125,000 Sanibel Island and the $100,000 Sand Springs. Four stakes, including the $100,000 Orchid (G3), the $100,000 Skip Away, the $100,000 Appleton (G3) and the $75,000 Sir Shackleton, will be contested on March 29.

Bourbon Lanes Stable and Lake Star Stable’s Bourbon War, R.A. Hill Stable and Gatsas Stables’ Vekoma and Juddmonte Farms, Inc.’s Hidden Scroll, who finished second, third and fourth, respectively, behind Code of Honor in the Fountain of Youth are also nominated to and expected to return in the Florida Derby.

Mark Hennig-trained Bourbon War won two of three starts prior to the Fountain of Youth, including a fast-closing 2 ¼-length optional claiming allowance at 1 1/16-miles at Gulfstream Jan. 18; George Weaver-trained Vekoma captured the Nashua (G3) at Aqueduct in his 2018 finale before racing evenly to finish third in his 2019 debut at Gulfstream; Hidden Scroll was sent to post as the 6-5 favorite for the Fountain of Youth after scoring by 14 lengths in his career debut Jan. 26 at Gulfstream Park. In addition to Hidden Scroll, trainer Bill Mott nominated Tacitus and Country House, who are not scheduled to take on their stablemate.

Harvey Wallbanger, who registered a 29-1 upset victory in the $350,000 Holy Bull (G2) at Gulfstream Feb. 2, is also among the nominees scheduled to start in the Florida Derby. The Ken McPeek-trained colt was coming off a maiden victory around two turns at Churchill Downs in his previous start for owners Harold Lerner, LLC, AWC Stables, Nehoc Stables, Scott Akman and Paul Braverman.

Gary and Mary West’s Maximum Security is scheduled to put his undefeated record on the line in the Florida Derby. The Jason Servis-trained son of New Year’s Day debuted for a $16,000 claiming tag in a 9 ¾ -length romp at Gulfstream Dec. 20 and went on to win a pair of starter optional claiming races, including an 18 ¼-length score that was achieved in a swift 1:21.72 for seven furlongs Feb. 20. The Servis-trained Final Jeopardy, a recent optional claiming allowance winner at Gulfstream for the Wests, is also nominated.

Hoffa’s Union, who was purchased by Gary Barber, Wachtel Stable, Christopher Dunn, Rose Petal Stable and Foard Wilgis after winning his recent debut at Laurel Park, is expected to make the leap from maiden to Grade 1 stakes competition in the Florida Derby. The Mark Casse-trained son of Union Rags captured a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight race by 15 ½ lengths Feb. 28.

Trainer Todd Pletcher, who has saddled a record five Florida Derby winners, is represented by seven nominees, including Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Robert LaPenta and Dixiana Farms LLC’s Current; Starlight Racing’s Cutting Humor, Robert and Lawana Low’s Federal Case; Let’s Go Stable and Richard Schibell’s Outshine; Robert LaPenta’s So Alive; A 1 A Racing and Let’s Go Stable’s Soldado; and Wertheimer and Frere’s Spinoff. Federal Case is entered in Saturday’s Hutcheson (G3) at Gulfstream and Spinoff is entered in the Louisiana Derby (G2) at Fair Grounds. Pletcher saddled Audible for a Florida Derby victory last year.

Trainer Dale Romans is represented by three horses on the Florida Derby nominations list – Calumet Farm’s Everfast and Albaugh Family Stables LLC’s Admire and Come On Gerry. Everfast finished second behind Harvey Wallbanger in the Holy Bull before finishing off the board in the Fountain of Youth. Admire and Come On Gerry are coming off out-of-the-money finishes in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) and Holy Bull, respectively.

Southern California-based trainer Richard Mandella nominated last weekend’s Fox Hill Farms, Inc.’s Omaha Beach, last weekend’s Rebel (G2) winner who is not slated to run, as well as Jay Em Ess Stable’s Extra Hope. Hronis Racing LLC and John Sadler are represented on the nominations list by Nolo Contesto.

2019 Florida Derby Nominations

Admire (Dale Romans)

Bodexpress (Gustavo Delgado)

Bourbon War (Mark Hennig)

Code of Honor (Shug McGaughey)

Come On Gerry (Dale Romans)

Country House (Bill Mott)

Current (Todd Pletcher)

Cutting Humor (Todd Pletcher)

Day (Victor Barboza Jr.)

Epic Dreamer (Kelly Breen)

Everfast (Dale Romans)

Extra Hope (Richard Mandella)

Federal Case (Todd Pletcher)

Final Jeopardy (Jason Servis)

Garter and Tie (Ralph Nicks)

Gladiator King (Jaime Mejia)

Hard Belle (Jaime Mejia)

Harvey Wallbanger (Ken McPeek)

Hidden Scroll (Bill Mott)

Hoffa’s Union (Mark Casse)

Maximum Security (Jason Servis)

Nolo Contesto (John Sadler)

Omaha Beach (Richard Mandella)

Outshine (Todd Pletcher)

So Alive (Todd Pletcher)

Soldado (Todd Pletcher)

Spinoff (Todd Pletcher)

Tacitus (Bill Mott)

Union’s Destiny (Juan Carlos Avila)

Vekoma (George Weaver)

Zenden (Victor Barboza Jr.)