Derby Trail Stakes Preview – Florida Derby (G1)

We previewed the Louisiana Derby in our last post and we look at the Florida Derby here. The Florida Derby wraps up a 14-race marathon card (which is actually one fewer race than they are running at Fair Grounds on Saturday) which features nine stakes races (and a maiden claimer and a $6,250 claimer).

Let’s go through the field.

1 – State of Honor (8-1) – He comes out of the Tampa Bay Derby, where he set a pretty solid pace but was no match for Tapwrit down the lane, finishing second but 4.5 lengths behind. He ran a solid third setting a solid pace behind McCraken (and Tapwrit) in the Sam Davis two-back but doesn’t have to be on the lead. He came from 6th to be second in the Mucho Macho Man over this track in January. He should get a good trip from the inside post in this race and I think has some upset potential at what should be a good price.

2 – Talk Logistics (30-1) – He’s danced all the dances along the Florida Derby trail but has been beaten 14 and 12.5 lengths in his last two starts after a decent showing, with traffic, in the Mucho Macho Man in January. However, he just hasn’t taken the necessary steps forward and will be a big price here today.

3 – Charlie the Greek (50-1) – Last year, the folks at Gulfstream coaxed a 10-horse Florida Derby field behind Mohayman and Nyquist, getting some overmatched longshots to fill out the race. They’ve done similar here with Charlie the Greek, a 2-12 runner with both wins in claiming races and a career best Beyer of 64.

4 – Always Dreaming (4-1) – Todd Pletcher sends out this runner out of an allowance win on the Fountain of Youth card going this 9-furlong distance. That race featured a preposterously slow pace (51.65 and 1:16.82 for the half and 3/4 splits) and a slow final figure of 71. It should be noted that with those early fractions, it was impossible to run a fast final time, but he’ll still have to improve off his previous races. At a short price, and having to deal with the speed of Three Rules, our play will involve keeping him out of the exacta.

5 – Quinientos (50-1) – He was well beaten in the Fountain of Youth and looms a huge longshot in this race.

6 – Coleman Rocky (30-1) – See the notes for Charlie the Greek.

7 – Unbridled Holiday (30-1) – See the notes for Coleman Rocky.

8 – Impressive Edge (15-1) – After not doing much running the February 4th Swale Stakes, Dale Romans dropped him back into allowance company on March 5th, the day after the Fountain of Youth, and he certainly responded with an 8-length win going seven furlongs. He’ll have to handle the stretch to 9 furlongs, and run a lot faster. We can use him underneath, but not on top.

9 – Battalion Runner (3-1) – He is expected to scratch and is in here as a backup for Always Dreaming (they have common ownership).

10 – Three Rules (8-1) – The Swale runner-up ran an enormous race in the Fountain of Youth when he set a very fast pace that completely fell apart and he was beaten by the off the pace rallies of Gunnevara (the 11-horse in today’s race) and Practical Joke (who is going to next week’s Blue Grass at Keeneland). Both of his races this year have been good, and he’s fast enough to clear again today. The knock is that we’re not sure he’s a true 9-furlong horse, and often the distance from 8.5 to 9 furlongs can act as a big separator. Still, he ran too well last time to completely toss, but he will be a backup in multi-race plays.

11 – Gunnevera (9-5) – The Fountain of Youth winner capitalized on a super-fast pace that collapsed to win that race at 4-1 and will be probably less than half that price today. Still, his previous race was excellent, when he had to steady back behind a very slow pace. This post does him no favors, but he’ll be able to drop back and make a run. Like Girvin in the Louisiana Derby, he capitalized on a fast pace and great trip last time and will be a much shorter price today, so we’ll oppose, but he’ll be a part of the play.

Pace – Always Dreaming and Three Rules should be the first two early on but State of Honor won’t be too far behind.

Analysis – As you can probably decipher from the comments, we’re going to bet State of Honor, especially if he is anything close to his morning line price. We’d expect closer to 5-1 but he should be the 4th choice (even if Battalion Runner scratches as expected). We’ll play him with Gunnevera, Impressive Edge, and Three Rules in exactas, looking for the upset on the win end.

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