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Todd Pletcher’s Known Agenda wins Florida Derby, appears headed to Kentucky Derby

Known Agenda, ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr., wins the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park on March 27, 2021.
Known Agenda, ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr., wins the $750,000 Florida Derby by 2¾ lengths at Gulfstream Park on Saturday in Hallandale Beach, Fla.
(Douglas P. DeFelice / Getty Images)

Trainer Todd Pletcher is no stranger to the Kentucky Derby, having 55 starters in the most famous horse race in the world. On Saturday at Gulfstream Park, he likely had another qualify. Known Agenda, a horse that had never won a graded stakes, proved resilient after taking the lead at the top of the stretch and won the $750,000 Florida Derby.

Saturday’s Grade 1 race was supposed to be a showdown of the East Coast favorite Greatest Honour and Spielberg, a $1-million purchase that races out of Santa Anita. But Greatest Honour got trapped on the rail and could not get clear running room and Spielberg ran most of the race four-wide before filtering to the back.

Nova Rags went to the early lead in the 1 1/8 mile until giving way to Soup and Sandwich on the backstretch. Known Agenda was comfortable to sit in the middle of the pack on the rail and slowly gain ground on the leaders. At the top of the stretch, jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. moved him three wide and Known Agenda swept to the lead and stayed in the middle of the track to win by 2¾ lengths.

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“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,” Pletcher said. “When he was making progress … 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 [Saturday] and that it was a matter of we’re going to find out how good he is.”

He was good enough to pay $12.80, $6.60 and $3.20. Soup and Sandwich was second, and Greatest Honour placed third. Spielberg finished a disappointing eighth.

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While Pletcher has been great getting to the Kentucky Derby, he has only won the race twice, in 2010 with Super Saver and Always Dreaming in 2017. Pletcher has won the Florida Derby six times, including five of the last eight. He pulled off the Florida-Kentucky double with Always Dreaming, who was partly owned by Vincent Viola, who is also in the ownership group of Known Agenda. Viola also owns the Florida Panthers of the NHL.

Known Agenda entered the Florida Derby coming off an impressive 11-length victory in an allowance at Gulfstream Park. Previously, he was fifth in the Sam Davis at Tampa Bay Downs.

“We were looking for a couple of things in that [allowance] race ,” Pletcher said. “One, to see if [wearing] 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.”

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Known Agenda earned 100 Kentucky Derby qualifying points for the win, and Soup and Sandwich got 40 for second. Both should qualify for the May 1 race. Next Saturday is the biggest on the Kentucky Derby prep trail, with the Santa Anita Derby, the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland, and the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct. The following week is the final major qualifier with the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn.

There were two other 100-point qualifiers Saturday. Like the King won the $250,000 Jeff Ruby Steaks on the synthetic racing surface at Turfway Park, and Rebel’s Romance won the UAE Derby in Dubai. It’s unclear whether Rebel’s Romance will ship to Churchill Downs.


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