Known Agenda Upsets Greatest Honour in Florida Derby
Saturday, March 27, 2021
    HALLANDALE BEACH - St. Elias Stable’s Known Agenda received a perfect trip under Irad Ortiz Jr. to win the $750,000, Gr. I Curlin Florida Derby, providing the defending three-time Eclipse Award-winning rider with his record-breaking 138th victory of the 2020-2021 Championship Meet at Gulfstream Park.

    Known Agenda ($12.80) also provided trainer Todd Pletcher with his record sixth success in the Florida Derby while also earning a stall in the starting gate in the Kentucky Derby.

    “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,” Pletcher said. “I know how much that means to them, that makes it a little more extra special for us.

    The 70th running of the Florida Derby headlined a 14-race program featuring 10 stakes, six graded. The tradition-rich 1 1/8-mile event for 3-year-olds, which has produced the winners of 60 Triple Crown races, offered 170 qualifying points for the May 1 Kentucky Derby  on a 100-40-20-10 basis.

    Courtlandt Farms’ Greatest Honour, the 4-5 favorite who had won the Jan. 30 Gr. III Holy Bull and Feb. 27 Gr. II Fountain of Youth , finished third.

    Known Agenda, who had captured a 1 1/8-mile optional claiming allowance by 11 lengths on Feb. 26, settled in fifth while saving ground as Nova Rags set the pace, pressed by Soup and Sandwich, around the first turn and along the backstretch, producing fractions of :23.43 and :47.73 seconds for the first half mile. Nova Rags and Soup and Sandwich continued to lead the 11-horse field into the turn, where Ortiz found room to slip Known Agenda off the rail and made a three-wide move around Nova Rags and Soup and Sandwich. The son of Curlin kicked in powerfully through the stretch to score by 2 ¾ lengths.

    “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,” Pletcher said. “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.”

    Known Agenda received a ground-saving trip because Ortiz had no other viable options. “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,” said Ortiz after surpassing Luis Saez’s record of 137 set during the 2017-2018 Championship Meet. “I had to go to the rail, and it worked out great. When I took him out he started rolling.”

    Live Oak Stud's Soup and Sandwich, ridden by John Velazquez, raced greenly through the stretch but held on to finish second, three lengths ahead of Greatest Honour. Nova Rags faded to fourth. Collaborate, who stalked the early pace into the far turn, finished fifth. Bob Baffert-trained Spielberg was bumped at the start and was never a factor while finishing seventh.

     Known Agenda raced 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.45 in his third start of the year to capture his first stakes. The home-bred colt had finished fifth in the Feb. 6 Gr. III Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs before winning impressively in his Feb. 26 romp while equipped with blinkers for the first time.

    “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,” Pletcher said. “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 Irad 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.”

    Known Agenda’s Florida Derby score was not the first time the Pletcher trainee was able to defeat Greatest Honour. He beat the McGaughey trainee by a head while graduating in a 1 1/8-mile maiden race at Aqueduct Nov. 8.

    Greatest Honour, who raced inside horses along the backstretch, found running room entering the stretch but was unable to make a serious challenge while closing to third under Jose Ortiz.

    “I thought we were OK on the turn there and he just didn’t kick on the way I thought he would,” Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey said. “I thought he ran fine. I think the winner ran a huge race.”

    McGaughey said that Greatest Honour will be pointed toward a start in the Kentucky Derby, for which he has 80 qualifying points. “As of right now, yeah. We just have to see how he is,” he said. “He belongs, as long as he’s OK.”

    Greatest Honour’s jockey was far from discouraged by his mount’s first defeat in four starts at Gulfstream. “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,” Ortiz said. “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.”

    Trainer Mark Casse said Soup and Sandwich, who earned 40 qualifying points in his stakes debut, would be pointed toward the Kentucky Derby with the hopes that the son of Tapit has earned sufficient points to get into the field. “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,” Casse said. “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.”

    Pletcher had previously visited the Florida Derby winner’s circle with Scat Daddy (2007), Constitution (2013), Materiality (2014), Always Dreaming (2017) and Audible (2018).
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