04/04/2012 12:38AM

Florida Derby day 2012 - a photo album

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Florida Derby day at Gulfstream Park featured brilliant sunshine, hot temperatures, enthusiastic fans and topnotch racing.  Here are some of the performers -with a few extra photos mixed in - that helped to make the day so special.

Above and below:  This solo flamingo, whom I call Pinky, showed up in the Gulfstream infield pond before the meet began - and was still there for the meet's biggest day.  As usual, he (or she?) didn't seem to notice the hubbub.

Above/below:  The day started out on a bright note when Rogue Romance, off for over a year after being on the 2011 Triple Crown trail, won an allowance optional claimer by 3 lengths.  Rogue Romance, by Smarty Jones and out of an Afleet mare, is trained by Ken McPeek.  Simba's Story (rail, below) was the race favorite and ran third.

Above:  Rogue Romance.

Above:  Travelin Man, trained by Todd Pletcher, won the first stakes of the day - the 6 1/2-furlong Sir Shackleton Stakes - in a squeaker over Jersey Town.  

Above:  Jersey Town was very game in his first start this year.  The 6-year-old son of Speightstown is trained by Barclay Tagg.

Above:  I can't resist including a photo of Will's Wildcat, who ran fourth in the Sir Shackleton.  He sure is a looker!

Above/below:  Speaking of lookers, Awesome Maria looked great again.  Below, the starting gate crew places her regular 'security blanket' across her hind end before she is loaded in the gate (I doubt it's really called a security blanket...but it sounds good).  

Above/below:  The awesome Awesome Maria, who won her eighth stakes race when taking the Grade 3 Rampart Stakes by 2 1/4 easy lengths.  The elegant 5-year-old Maria's Mon mare is trained by Todd Pletcher and owned by E. Paul Robsham Stables LLC.

Above:  4-year-old Za Approval, trained by Christophe Clement, wins the fourth race, an allowance contest.

Above:  Kanagaro and Rajiv Maragh get nipped at the wire by Za Approval in the fourth race.

Above/below:  Fort Larned, trained by Ian Wilkes, paid $26.20 in winning the Skip Away Stakes.  

Above:  Under his blinkers, Fort Larned is a very classy-looking Thoroughbred.

Above: "Oh, hai!"  Affari di Cat checks out the outrider's pony after falling in a maiden race.  He appeared uninjured.

Above:  It seems a promising 3-year-old Todd Pletcher colt wins every day - and on Florida Derby day, it was Ez Effort.  The Arizona-bred son of In Excess, who is a half-brother to Uh Oh Bango, won a maiden event by 8 lengths at odds of .60-1.

Above/below:  Corporate Jungle proved a solid winner for trainer Chad Brown in the Appleton Stakes.  The favored Giant's Causeway colt paid $6.

Above:  Brilliant Speed, a close second choice in the wagering at 2.20-1.

Above:  Decisive Moment, who ran in last year's Kentucky Derby, went off at 43.80-1 and finished sixth in the Appleton.

Above:  The Gulfstream meet, this year, was a record-breaker for Javier Castellano.  Javier not only won the jockeys' title but also won more races than any other jockey, ever, at a Gulfstream meet.

Above:  Gaelico and Javier Castellano looking racy the first time past the wire in an allowance race.

Above:  Saturday's for Fun, by Any Given Saturday and trained by Barclay Tagg, wins a maiden special weight event on the turf.

Above/below:  Grace Hall continues looking great this year, here winning the Gulfstream Oaks Stakes.  The 3-year-old daughter of Empire Maker is trained by Tony Dutrow.

Above:  Zo Impressive, by Hard Spun - Zoftig, ran a solid second to Grace Hall.

Above:  And Why Not, a Michael Matz trainee by Street Cry - Alchemist, who has run second in third in previous stakes races.  This time, she ran seventh to Grace Hall.

Above:  Aqsaam and Rajiv Maragh set the pace in the Orchid, holding a double-digit length lead the first time by.  They hung on for second.

Above:  Coming down the stretch of the Orchid, Keertana (far left) bore down upon the leaders - but could not catch them.

Above/below:  Hit It Rich, by Smart Strike and trained by Claude 'Shug' McGaughey, is not just beautiful but also very consistent.  The grey lass has run first, second or third in 10 of 13 starts.  

Above:  The talk of the town before the Florida Derby was the magnificent Union Rags, who looked great heading to the paddock.

Above:  An issue with Union Rags' right hind shoe necessitated handiwork in the paddock before the Florida Derby.  Michael Matz is in the light brown suit, and Mrs. Phyllis Wyeth and Julien Leparoux are in yellow, right.

Above:  Union Rags and Julien Leparoux.

Above:  El Padrino, by Pulpit and out of a Giant's Causeway mare, is pretty as a picture.

Above:  Take Charge Indy is brought over quickly by Calvin Borel when News Pending dwells at the start, and Fort Loudon (rail) is on his way...in the Florida Derby.

Above:  Coming into the stretch, Take Charge Indy and Calvin Borel led along the rail.  Reveron was second, with Union Rags, El Padrino and others close behind.

Above/below:  Take Charge Indy and Calvin Borel win the 2012 Florida Derby for trainer Pat Byrne and owners Chuck and Maribeth Sandford.

Above/below:  Calvin Borel sure makes great faces!  Reveron ran a very impressive second and Union Rags closed well to be third.

Above:  Pat Byrne, who expressed confidence in his Take Charge Indy during Florida Derby week, was all smiles after the race.  

Above:  Calvin and Pat, in the winner's circle after the race.

Above/below:  Union Rags and Julien Leparoux return to be unsaddled, and Michael Matz and assistant Peter Brette after the race.

Above/below:  Flowers for the winner.  Take Charge Indy, a beautifully bred son of A.P. Indy - Take Charge Lady, by Dehere, has now placed first or second in 4 of 6 races and earned $721,000.  Now he's aiming toward a different type of floral wreath - the roses of the Kentucky Derby.

Video of the 2012 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park: http://www.drf.com/events/florida-derby-gulfstream-park

Gulfstream Park website: http://www.gulfstreampark.com/