Racehorse Hofburg One to Look at in the 2018 Florida Derby

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Juddmonte Farms homebred Hofburg, an impressive maiden winner March 3 at Gulfstream Park, will make just his third career start and first in a stakes in the 67th $1 million Xpressbet.com Florida Derby (G1) March 31.

Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, Hofburg is the 10th horse expected when entries are taken and post positions drawn late Wednesday morning for the prestigious 3-year-old prep that has produced a remarkable 59 Triple Crown race winners in its first 66 runnings, including three of the last four Kentucky Derby (G1) champions.

Hofburg, out of the Touch Gold mare Soothing Touch, was fourth in his career debut going seven furlongs Sept. 2 at Saratoga Race Course. He didn’t race again until being stretched out to 1 1/16 miles for a maiden special weight at Gulfstream, where he was initially hesitant to load in the starting gate then settled just off the pace, took a clear lead entering the stretch and held on to win by a half-length.

“We don’t have a lot of seasoning in us, but the one good thing is we did have a race last August at Saratoga and he ran really well. We’ve been pretty high on the colt all along,” Mott said. “He had time after that race, and his race here was very good. It was over the racetrack, he had a wide trip and came out a winner.

“It’s a big reach, but looking at what’s probably available for him we just thought it was worth taking a chance with him,” he added. “We’ve always regarded him pretty well and thought we’d give it a try.”

Mott, seeking his first Florida Derby victory, is hoping Hofburg’s pedigree and ability can help overcome his lack of experience. Juddmonte won the 2003 Florida Derby with subsequent Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Empire Maker.

In addition to being by leading sire Tapit, Hofburg’s half-sister Emollient, also trained by Mott, won six of 18 starts including four Grade 1 races and more than $1.3 million in purses from 2012 to 2014.

“She broke her maiden on the dirt and won an a-other-than on the dirt and then she wound up being a multiple Grade 1 winner on the synthetic and on the turf, but she was a very good mare,” Mott said. “This colt comes from a good female line and a good sire line, so he’s got a lot going for him.”

The Florida Derby anchors a spectacular March 31 program that includes seven stakes, five graded, worth $2.3 million in purses. The field is expected to include Holy Bull (G2) winner Audible, Fountain of Youth (G2) winner Promises Fulfilled, Remsen (G2) and With Anticipation (G3) winner Catholic Boy, Swale (G3) winner Strike Power, Dania Beach (G3) winner Speed Franco, Millionaire Runner, Storm Runner and Tip Sheet.

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About Editor

Rich Nilsen is a 16-time qualifier to the National Horseplayers Championship (NHC), an event he has cashed in four times. He was the first player to finish in the top 10 twice. He cashed on the NHC Tour for 2018 with a 19th overall finish. Rich was also a winner of a $24,000 package into Kentucky Derby Betting Championship I. A former executive with Brisnet.com, Rich is a graduate of the University of Louisville Equine Business Program and is founder of AGameofSkill.com, a site devoted to horse racing education and promotion.

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