Pletcher Defends Florida Derby Title with Two

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2:22 pm EDT

Todd Pletcher will defend his Florida Derby title, won by Constitution last year, with two of the favorites.

Materiality has drawn comparisons to Constitution, each being undefeated, neither having raced at  age two, and both making their graded stakes debut in the Florida Derby in just their third lifetime start. Both colts even had their unveiling on the same date – Jan. 11 – one year apart.

A son of Tapit, Constitution went from a seven-furlong maiden win to a 1 1/16-mile allowance score prior to the 1 1/8-mile Florida Derby. Materiality, by Preakness and Belmont Stakes winner Afleet Alex, debuted at six furlongs then stretched out to nine furlongs to win the March 6 Islamorada Handicap.

Itsaknockout, also a lightly-raced colt, of course won the Fountain of Youth Stakes last month via disqualification of Upstart.

“They’re both lightly raced, talented horses,” Pletcher said. “Materiality got what I thought was a very good race going a mile and an eighth. The time was very solid, so you just hope he has enough seasoning to take that step up into a race like this.”

In the $75,000 Islamorada, Materiality sat behind pacesetting Stanford, his favored stablemate, before taking over at the top of the stretch and drawing away to a 5 3$-length victory over Stanford in 1:49.32. Stanford is entered in Saturday's Louisiana Derby.

“For his second start, stretching out to a mile and an eighth and running as fast as he did, I wasn’t surprised necessarily that he won, but the convincing fashion that he did and the time of the race,” Pletcher said, “I thought it was a ‘wow’ performance.”

Unlike Constitution, who had five weeks between his second start and the Florida Derby, Materiality wheels back in 22 days for Pletcher.

“It’s just kind of the way things unfolded for him,” Pletcher said. “We were trying to figure out if we would be better off to wait another week and ship to New York and possibly lose your jockey. Seven days is substantial in one way and yet in another not that big a deal when you factor in the shipping and some other factors.”

Thus far, Materiality and Itsaknockout, who is three-for-three, have raced exclusively at Gulfstream Park. Pletcher also has horses pointed to other Triple Crown preps in Kentucky, Louisiana and New York.

“Had we chosen not to run one of these two here, they were going to have to run against a stable mate in one of the other preps,” Pletcher said. “It’s kind of hard to want to move two horses that are undefeated over a particular surface and look to ship.”

Itsaknockout is the 2-1 morning line second choice, and Materiality is the 7-2 third choice. Upstart is listed at 8-5.

Edited Gulstream Park release with additional content by Dick Downey