Updated on 02/26/2015 11:56AM

Florida Derby next after Khozan crushes allowance foes

Barbara D. Livingston
Khozan, with Javier Castellano aboard, improves to 2 for 2 by winning an allowance by 12 3/4 lengths.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. -  He has  yet to run in a stakes race or earn any qualifying points but Khozan continues to give every impression he’s a legitimate Kentucky Derby candidate after drawing off to a convincing 12 3/4-length victory over five totally overmatched allowance rivals in Sunday’s fifth race at Gulfstream Park.

Khozan, a son of Distorted Humor, earned a 103 Beyer Speed Figure winning his career debut by 3 3/4 lengths going seven furlongs here on Jan. 24. He handled the stretch to a mile with equal aplomb, taking some dirt in the process racing behind and inside horses during the early running before asserting his superiority and winning off by himself in 1:38.07. He earned a 90 Beyer for the effort. Jockey Javier Castellano did put Khozan ($2.10) under a mild drive approaching the wire even though at that point, the issue was no longer in doubt.

:: ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays

“It’s another very impressive performance. He couldn’t have run much better than that,” said Todd Pletcher, who trains Khozan for Al Shaqab Racing. “It was what we were hoping for; glad to see he got a little bit of an education today. He was behind horses a little bit, inside horses. He did some things he didn’t do in his first start. Because he drew so far out in his first start, we wanted to get a little dirt in his face today to see how he’d react, so Javier let him stay there a little bit and said he handled it well.”

Pletcher said the Grade 1 Florida Derby would likely be Khozan’s stakes debut and final Kentucky Derby prep.

“The logical next race would probably be the Florida Derby,” said Pletcher. “He’s 2 for 2 over the track, he’s run well over the track and trained well here. We’ll talk about it. The race would be his final Derby prep. History is against him, but maybe he’ll be the one who can overcome it.”

Pletcher said earlier in the day that the Florida Derby is also the next likely target for Itsaknockout, who won the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth following the disqualification of Upstart on Saturday.

Khozan’s victory was the seventh in as many starters Pletcher has run at the meet for Al Shaqab Racing, which paid $1 million to purchase the half-brother to champion Royal Delta at the 2014 Fasig-Tipton March sale.