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If horseplayers had a question of which runner to bet in the $1 million Besilu Stables Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park on March 29, the one Javier Castellano was named on seemed as sure a shot as any.
Seeking his first Florida Derby victory but out to gain his fifth overall victory on the afternoon card at the South Florida oval, Castellano delivered the kind of ride that illustrates exactly why he's one of the best in the nation.
Third in the pocket trip early on behind pacesetting Fountain of Youth winner Wildcat Red, Castellano sent his mount off the final turn through a paint-scraping gap along the rail. The lightly raced Constitution responded with a surge to get up by a neck, acing his stakes debut and collecting 100 points on the road to the Kentucky Derby.
Wildcat Red fought back brilliantly in his first try at the 1 ⅛-mile distance after setting measured fractions of :24.01 seconds, :48.19 seconds, and 1:12 under Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez. But in the end, despite battling hard into the final furlong after a mile in 1:36.46, he could not withstand the craftily ridden Tapit runner, who completed the sophomore test in 1:49.16 on a fast track.
Even-money favorite Cairo Prince, who had not raced since winning the Jan. 25 Holy Bull Stakes, finished a lackluster fourth behind General a Rod. East Hall, Matador, Spot, and Allstar completed the order of finish.
Off at odds of 3-1 in his stakes debut and just his third start for WinStar Farm and Twin Creeks Racing, Constitution paid $8.60, $4.20, and $3.60 with his third consecutive win. Wildcat Red brought $4.80 and $3.40 at 7-2, while 9-2 General a Rod paid $3.40.
Bred in Kentucky by Grapestock LLC & Fox Hill Farms out of the Distorted Humor mare Baffled, 3-year-old Constitution was a $400,000 purchase by Twin Creeks Racing at the 2012 Fasig-Tipton New York Saratoga select yearling from the Vinery Sales consignment. The winner's share of the Florida Derby purse bumped his earnings to $649,350.