This Saturday, the real running for the roses begins as the 2014 Kentucky Derby Trail enters the stretch and heads to
the Fair Grounds Race Course and Gulfstream Park for the Louisiana and Florida Derbies. For most of these Derby
hopefuls, this will be the first time they have travelled a 1 1/8th miles and it is our only shot to gain clues and form an opinion as to
whether they will be able to handle the classic distance of 1 ¼ miles of the Kentucky Derby. We must watch closely as both
fields have talent and we should expect to see a few of them in the gate in
Louisville, KY, on May 3rd. There is a lot to discuss so let’s jump right in. Here are my thoughts on how the Florida and Louisiana Derbies may
The Louisiana Derby
Nothing could be grander than to be in Louisiana
(it sounds better if you sing that last line)….this is especially true on
Louisiana Derby day. This race, in my opinion, sets up perfectly for the favorite Intense Holiday. The pace should be contested
and possibly hot with Louies Flower, Vicar’s in Trouble, Rise
Up, In Trouble, and Albano all
preferring to race towards the front. With that many charges vying for the
lead, I believe that hurts all of their chances on the win end. In Trouble does
interest me though, I thought his 2014 bow in the Gotham was a nice effort, and
if he improves and can sit off the pace a bit, he is a contender. As for
Albano, he received a perfect trip last time, breaks widest of all today, and
may have distance issues. In my eyes, I will pass on him on the win end. The
other three mentioned that like to be out front are complete tosses for me
as I believe they will not appreciate the added distance.
As for the ones coming from off the pace I believe King
Cyrus and Flat Gone are in way over their heads here
and I will not be using them at all. Gold Hawk has hinted at talent, but has been a complete
let down in the preps so far. I will limit his use to underneath in the exotics
because he may enjoy more ground. One that I find very interesting, who I
believe will be coming late, is Commanding Curve. He ran alright in his
welcome back race in the Risen Star in his first start versus winners and gets
an improved post position today. If he can move forward off his last, he just
may have a say in this.
The Play – 1. Intense Holiday 2. In Trouble 3.
This race sets up perfectly for a stalker in my
opinion. I believe the pace will be contested, possibly hot, and I do not think
the frontrunners will relish the added ground. Intense Holiday is a legit and
deserving favorite, but not impossible to beat. If In Trouble can settle in
just behind the pace, which he may be able to do, he has a shot to take this
down. And as for Commanding Curve, if he steps up like I think he will, the
race sets up for him also.
For multi-race purposes, if my opinions in the
others legs of the sequence allowed, I would want all three of my top choices
on my ticket. As for intra-race, I would box those same three in an Exacta.
The Florida Derby
Let me start off by saying the opinions forthcoming
are based on the assumption that the track will be fair. As we have seen in the
past though, Gulfstream at times can be very, very kind to frontrunners. If the
track is slicked up you can toss what is about to be said out the window. Having
said that, and on the subject of track bias, I am downgrading any horse that
raced up front on the main track at Gulfstream on February 22nd.
Three horses in this contest benefitted greatly from the slicked up track that
day and I am completely against two of them. Wildcat Red and General a Rod were aided from the bias
in the Fountain of Youth as they blazed around the track one-two the whole way.
Add that to the fact that I believe neither want the added ground and may be at
a pace disadvantage and I am against them. The other horse that ran that day, Constitution, is a bit of a different story.
While he won up front and benefitted from the track bias in his allowance
score, I don’t think he needs the lead and I also think he will enjoy the
distance. This is a big class rise though in his first start in stakes company,
but I give him a slight chance to win this.
While we are speaking of the speed up front, we
have two horses stretching out from sprints for today. All Star is
coming into this off a N1X sprint at Calder, he may be a pace factor, but is in
way over his head and is a complete toss in my opinion. The other stretch out
is Spot for trainer Nick Zito. I do not project him to be part of
the early pace however as I believe he will be about mid pack. I wasn’t that
impressed with his win in the Swale as he received a perfect set up to close
into that day and he was on his wrong lead in the stretch. He drew furthest
outside for this and I think this may be asking a bit much of him. I will have
The ones who I believe this race sets up for are
the stalkers. I am completely tossing East Hall, as I believe he is
outclassed, so that leaves us with Matador and Cairo Prince. I think both have a shot to
win. Matador is interesting long shot in my opinion as he comes into this third
off the layoff, is adding blinkers, and I think he may enjoy the added ground.
His races in the Tampa preps weren’t that bad, and if he enjoys his new
equipment and improves, he may be coming late. As for Cairo Prince, I believe
he is a legit and deserving favorite. He crushed the Holy Bull after a wide
trip and should be able to work out a nice trip today. He has never run out of
the exacta in four tries with three wins. I do worry a little bit about
distance, but not enough to hold it against him. This race definitely goes
The Play - 1. Cairo Prince 2.
Matador 3. Constitution
This is kind of like the pace dynamic in the
Louisiana Derby. The pace may be contested and hot with horses I do not think
want the distance. The edge goes to pressers and stalkers in my estimation, so
while I am not Cairo Prince’s biggest fan, this is definitely his race to lose.
He should get a nice trip behind the speeds, and if he can handle the added
ground, he is your most likely winner. Matador, like I stated earlier, may be a
dangerous long shot if he improves and enjoys the longer trip and blinkers. And
lastly, although Constitution was aided last time out, I don’t think he is a
need the lead type. If he handles the class rise and distance he may have a say
in the outcome.
For multi-race purposes I am going to use just two,
Cairo Prince and Matador, and as for intra-race I will go with another Exacta
Box with my top three choices.
Good luck at the windows, folks. It should be a
fantastic day of racing.