TORONTO, March 31 – State of Honor, the 6-1 third choice in the Queen’s Plate Winterbook, will bid for a spot in the starting gate for the Kentucky Derby when he takes on a talented field of 11 in Saturday’s Grade 1 $1-million Florida Derby, at Gulfstream Park.
Trained by Mark Casse for owner Conrad Farms, State of Honor has hit the board in all three of his starts this season including a second in the Mucho Man Stakes at Gulfstream Park along with a third and a second in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis and Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs.
Last time out, in the 1 1/16-mile Tampa Bay Derby, State of Honor set the early pace under regular rider Julien Leparoux but could not hold off the energetic rally of Tapwrit.
State of Honor boasts 22 points in the Kentucky Derby points standings, good for 14th, and as it stands would qualify to make the gate on the First Saturday In May. However, on Saturday the bay son of To Honor and Serve will have to carry his speed to 1 1/8-miles if he is going to prove to Casse and connections that he has the stamina for 1 1/4-mile events like the Derby and Queen’s Plate.
To win the Florida Derby (Race 14, 6:40 PM ET), State of Honor will have to overcome 9-5 morning line favourite Gunnerva as well as the Todd Pletcher trained duo of Battalion Runner and Always Dreaming.
Gunnerva, trained by Antonio Sano and to be ridden by Javier Castellano, romped to a 5 3/4-length score in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes last time out at Gulfstream Park.
Saturday’s bumper card at Gulfstream Park includes a Late Pick 4 (Races 10-14) pool guaranteed at $750,000, and a Late Pick 5 (Races 10-14) offering a $500,000 pool guarantee.
Time to Travel, a full brother to popular multiple graded stakes winner Hard Not to Like, will look to break his maiden on the Florida Derby undercard (Race 6, 2:23 PM ET) in a seven furlong main track event.
Trained by Rachel Halden for owner-breeder Garland Williamson, Time to Travel finished a strong fourth on debut in a race won by a well-regarded Chad Brown trainee in Timeline. Edgar Prado retains the mount on Time to Travel who is listed at 8-1 on the morning line.
Chiefswood Stable homebred Final Copy, trained by Roger Attfield, seeks his first career win in Friday’s nitecap (Race 9, 4:55 PM ET) at Tampa Bay Downs over 1 1/16-mile on the turf.
The Malibu Moon grey has yet to hit the board in two starts at Tampa Bay Downs but is a runner of some promise as a full brother to 2013 Bison City Stakes winner Original Script.
A number of Queen’s Plate contenders were in action last weekend with Off Road, trained by Steven Asmussen for owner Jerry Durant, leading the way with a good second, defeated just a head, in a maiden event at Oaklawk Park.
Off Road, a dark bay son of Quality Road, rallied four-wide under Luis Contreras and just missed reeling in the front-running Grandpa’s Dream.
The Mark Casse trained King and His Court along with Sailing Home took part in stakes events at Turfway Park last Saturday but both Queen’s Plate contenders failed to make an impact.
1. Tiz a Slam / Roger Attfield / Chiefswood Stable
2. King and His Court / Mark Casse / Gary Barber and Wachtel Stable
2. State of Honor / Mark Casse / Conrad Farms
4. Channel Maker / Dan Vella / Joey Gee Thoroughbreds and Wachtel Stable
5. Inflexibility / Chad Brown / Klaravich Stables, Inc. William H. Lawrence
The 158th running of The Queen’s Plate, the 1 1/4-mile classic which carries a $1 million purse, is set for Sunday, July 2. For more information on North America’s oldest continuously-run stakes event and first jewel in Canada’s Triple Crown of Racing, visit QueensPlate.com.