Fierceness Back on Top with Resounding Florida Derby Victory

Fierceness | Lauren King

Now that's much more like it.

Last year's GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner and champion 2-year-old colt 'TDN Rising Star' Fierceness (City of Light), a head-scratching third after getting pinballed at the start in the GIII Holy Bull S. Feb. 3, put on an absolute show to win by daylight in Saturday's GI Curlin Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park. It was a record-extending eighth Florida Derby win for Todd Pletcher and sixth for John Velazquez.

“That was a pretty awesome performance,” Pletcher said. “That's what we see in the mornings when we breeze him, a special talent. That's why it was so perplexing his two races that he didn't run brilliantly. He's three times brilliant and two times has had off days.”

Pletcher continued, “From a talent perspective, he has it all. Like everyone else in the Derby, you've got to hope you draw a good post, you get a good trip, and you like Churchill Downs–all those things.”

Winning owner/breeder Mike Repole added, “It's just special. I got 70 family members and they wanted it for me as much as I wanted it for them. It's just very special. I said before, we forget he's only had four races. He had a layoff. That was just really special. I told Todd if he wins by five or is beat by five, I wouldn't be surprised. How could you be?”

Ridden for speed by Velazquez from his outside draw in post eight, the Repole Stable homebred cleared the field rounding the clubhouse turn and the race was pretty much over from there. The bay got into a nice rhythm and clicked off fractions of :24.06 and :47.50. He began to shake free without being asked on the turn for home and dropped the hammer in the stretch to win by a record-setting 13 1/2 lengths. Catalytic (Catalina Cruiser) was second; Grand Mo the First (Uncle Mo) was third.

“We weren't committed to being on the lead,” Pletcher said. “We were committed to being forward and getting a good position on the first turn. We talked about we might be on the lead, we might be lying second, we might be lying third. But we just wanted to get away from the gate and get in a good position. It turns out he made the lead and got into a good rhythm, and just kept going. [I thought], 'If he does what he shows us in the mornings he can do, he's going to be pretty hard to beat from there.'”

Velazquez added, “It was pretty easy. This is what I expected last time out of him. He had been working lights out. He broke well today and I just let him have it. I let them come and get him, and he dominated the whole race. When he got to the backstretch and switched to the turn, he picked it up and so I let him do it. He was comfortable. Then at the quarter pole, I gave him a little smooch and he picked it up right away. It was pretty easy. This is why we're here. This is what we work for, for opportunities like this. It's exciting.”

Pedigree Notes:

Fierceness is one of two graded winners for young sire City of Light. Mike Repole paid $200,000 for the winner's second dam Nonna Mia–named in honor of his grandmother–at the 2008 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Sale and she was a gifted 2-year-old in her own right, winning her maiden by 12 lengths at second asking at Belmont Park before finishing third to stablemate Devil May Care (Malibu Moon) in the 2009 GI Frizette S. Nonna Mia, a close relative of MGSW sire Cairo Prince (Pioneerof the Nile), was an immediate hit in the breeding shed, first producing the multiple stakes-placed Nonna's Boy (Distorted Humor) before a mating with Uncle Mo resulted in Outwork, the 2016 GI Wood Memorial S. hero. Nonna Bella, the third foal out of Nonna Mia, is a daughter of Repole's 2011 GI Travers S. hero Stay Thirsty (Bernardini). Nonna Bella produced a City of Light colt in 2022 and a filly by Caravaggio in 2023. She was bred to Uncle Mo for 2024.

Saturday, Gulfstream
CURLIN FLORIDA DERBY PRESENTED BY HILL 'N' DALE FARMS AT XALAPA-GI, $1,000,000, Gulfstream, 3-30, 3yo, 1 1/8m, 1:48.22, ft.
1–FIERCENESS, 122, c, 3, by City of Light
                1st Dam: Nonna Bella, by Stay Thirsty
                2nd Dam: Nonna Mia, by Empire Maker
                3rd Dam: Holy Bubbette, by Holy Bull
'TDN Rising Star'. O/B-Repole Stable, Inc. (KY); T-Todd A.
Pletcher; J-John R. Velazquez. $576,600. Lifetime Record:
Ch. 2-year-old, 5-3-0-1, $1,703,850. Werk Nick Rating: A+++.
*Triple Plus* Click for the eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree.
Click for the free catalogue-style pedigree.
2–Catalytic, 122, c, 3, Catalina Cruiser–One Show Only, by
1ST G1 BLACK TYPE. ($70,000 Wlg '21 KEENOV; $125,000 Ylg
'22 FTSAUG). O-Tami Bobo, Julie Davies and George G. Isaacs;
B-Fred W. Hertrich (KY); T-Saffie A. Joseph, Jr. $186,000.
3–Grand Mo the First, 122, c, 3, Uncle Mo–Lilies So Fair, by
Giant's Causeway. 1ST G1 BLACK TYPE. ($125,000 RNA Ylg '22
KEESEP; $135,000 Ylg '22 FTKOCT; $335,000 RNA 2yo '23
OBSMAR). O-Granpollo Stable; B-John D. Gunther (KY);
T-Victor Barboza, Jr. $93,000.
Margins: 13HF, 2HF, NO. Odds: 1.10, 29.00, 21.50.
Also Ran: Conquest Warrior, Hades, Frankie's Empire, Iris's Dream, Real Macho, Le Dom Bro. Scratched: Bail Us Out, Seminole Chief.
Click for the chart and the PPs. VIDEO, sponsored by FanDuel TV.

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