Hallandale Beach, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - The road to the Kentucky Derby officially got underway Wednesday with the New Year's Day running of the $100,000 Gulfstream Park Derby, the first stakes for 3-year-olds of 2014.
General a Rod, ridden by Joel Rosario, left from the outside post in the nine- horse field and posted his first stakes win in just his third career start.
One of three starters sent off at 7-2, General a Rod was running third in the early going behind Aarons Orient and Wildcat Red, the other 7-2 horses. On the final turn, General a Rod and Wildcat Red hooked up on the lead and dueled through the stretch.
General a Rod, trained by Mike Maker and owned by J. Armando Rodriguez, was able to get a head in front over Wildcat Red and jockey Paco Lopez at the finish.
"When I got to the horse in front, he just kind of waited a little bit. He didn't want to go by, but the other horse was running pretty good, too," Rosario said. "I thought I had a little more left when I asked him, but he did the job. I think he's still learning now, so going forward he'll be even better."
East Hall, a 22-1 longshot, finished third followed by 5-2 favorite Pablo Del Monte, Aarons Orient, Enthrone, Gone as Wind, Grand Arrival and Best Plan Yet.
General a Rod covered the mile in 1:35.84 on a fast track.
"We drew great. He got a perfect trip. I have no complaints," Maker said. "He's always shown great promise. He's a big, immature colt, but since his last race he's made no mistakes. We were looking for a big effort today and we got it."
The win was worth $60,000 to bring General a Rod's earnings to $102,200. The colt won his debut race at Keeneland in October and got second in an optional claiming race at Churchill Downs on Nov. 30.
"He ran great last time. He was just second best. The winner (Conquest Titan) was coming out of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and was a bit more experienced," Maker noted.
General a Rod returned $9.60, $ 5.20 and $3.60. Wildcat Red paid $5.20 and $4.20, and East Hall paid $8.60 to show.