Florida Derby Hero White Abarrio Changing for the Better
Simplification on to Derby
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. expressed pleasure with White Abarrio’s condition Sunday morning at Gulfstream Park following his victory in Saturday’s $1 million Curlin Florida Derby (G1) presented by Hill ‘n’ Dale at Xalapa, and he has reason to believe that the son of Race Day will be even better on the first Saturday in May.
“Physically, he’s not an overly big horse. He’s filled out and he’s grown a bit. He’s a changed horse,” Joseph said. “He’s changed from November to now, and he’s showing it on the track. That’s what you want. You want to be improving at this time of year. I feel he’s making forward progressions.”
White Abarrio qualified for the May 7 Kentucky Derby (G1) Saturday with a thoroughly professional off-the-pace performance, in which he rated in fifth before making a sweeping move to the lead on the turn into the homestretch and holding off the determined bid of Todd Pletcher-trained Charge It.
“He was further back than we envisioned and to see him be able to sit back that far off the pace and make his move, it gives you a lot of confidence, because you know he can run close to the pace and now sit back and be as effective,” Joseph said.
White Abarrio’s Florida Derby status was questionable less than two weeks ago after coming down with a fever that forced the gray colt to miss his final scheduled workout a week prior to Gulfstream’s signature Triple Crown prep. With White Abarrio fully recovered, Joseph scheduled a three-furlong breeze last Tuesday before confirming him for the Florida Derby.
Joseph was nearly overcome with emotion in the immediate aftermath of White Abarrio’s victory.
“It’s a big race – the biggest race in Florida with the Pegasus,” Joseph said. “You watch people win it. You dream about being in that position, just to have a runner. To win it is just a dream come true.”
White Abarrio was the beneficiary of a well-judged ride by Tyler Gaffalione, who won five races on Saturday’s card, including four stakes.
White Abarrio was privately purchased by C2 Racing Stable LLC and La Milagrosa Stable LLC following an attention-getting 6 ¾-length debut victory at Gulfstream in September. The Kentucky-bred colt came back to capture an entry-level optional claiming allowance by four lengths before venturing to Churchill Downs for a third-place finish in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) in his 2-year-old campaign finale. He scored an impressive 4 ½-length triumph in the Feb. 5 Holy Bull (G3) before training up to the Florida Derby.
White Abarrio would be the second Kentucky Derby starter for Joseph, who sent out Ny Traffic for an eighth-place finish in 2020, when the first jewel of the Triple Crown was run without fans in September due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s not the same without the fans. The fans are the ones who make the excitement. It’s going to be a much different experience. We’ve had a walkthrough and now we get to have the experience again,” Joseph said. “It’s going to be a special moment. My family is going to be there. You try to build these memories for your kids.”
It’s on to the Kentucky Derby for Tami Bobo’s Simplification, who finished third in the Florida Derby after taking a lead into the stretch.
“I am so happy with the race because the horse ran well and came back well,” trainer Antonio Sano said.
Simplification, who finished second to White Abarrio in the Holy Bull before winning the Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth (G2), came under heavy outside pressure from Pappacap along the backstretch and into the stretch.
“The plan was to be up front, but the pressure from No. 5 Pappacap outside made Jose [Ortiz] move the horse before it was time,” Sano said. “It was a good field and my horse ran very good. In the Kentucky Derby, I believe he will run great.”
Trainer Brian Lynch reported that Classic Causeway, who led into the backstretch before falling back to last, came out of the disappointing result in good order.
“Everything seems good. He scoped good and came back good this morning,” Lynch said. “It’s a bit of a headscratcher. We’ll digest it and go on from there.”
Classic Causeway had already earned sufficient points to make the Kentucky Derby field with his victories in the Sam F. Davis (G3) and Tampa Bay Derby (G2).
“Everything is up in the air now. We’ll let the dust settle and we’ll make a decision in a few days,” Lynch said.
Whisper Hill Farm LLC’s Charge It came up with a gritty performance against more experienced colts while finishing second in the Florida Derby in only his third career start. The Pletcher trainee, who hit the gate at the start, made a solid run at White Abarrio before racing greenly in the stretch. Pletcher expressed his pleasure with the son of Tapit’s effort following his run in the Florida Derby.
“To get a real education in a race like that was very encouraging. He got a little green down the lane. He kind of drifted in behind that horse and felt like if he could have just run straight that last 100 yards, he was going to be right there. But I thought it was a huge effort, considering everything,” said Pletcher, who said the Kentucky Derby will be under consideration after seeing how the son of Tapit comes out of the Florida Derby.