Photo: Coglianese Photos/Lauren King
Only twice in the last five years has the Florida Derby
not contained either a winner or runner-up in a Triple Crown race. The
roster of Florida Derby winners who have made an impact on the Triple Crown
races reads like a who’s who of racing. In the last thirteen years, seven
winners or runners up in the Florida Derby won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness or
Belmont Stakes. Monarchos, Barbaro and
Orb won the Kentucky Derby; Big Brown won the Derby and Preakness; Empire Maker
won the Belmont, and Shackleford, second place in the 2011 Florida Derby, won
the Preakness. Additionally, 2010 Florida Derby champ Ice Box was second in the
The extra half furlong between the Fountain of Youth held at 1
1/16 miles and the Florida Derby at 1 1/8 miles doesn’t seem that far. Unless
you’re a tired racehorse lugging a whipping jockey and his tack to the wire. Florida Filly Ashley
Tamulonis and I team up to sort out the colts who can manage the extra
distance and become the next Florida Derby winner.
Speed rules at Gulfstream and outside posts are guaranteed a wide trip at 1 1/8
miles. Of the eight races contested at 1 1/8 miles this year, four of the
winners flashed early speed. The running style in the last seven Florida
Derbies contained four winners who led/pressed the pace, one mid-pack runner
and two who won from the back of the pack.
There’s an 80% chance of rain earlier in the day, but the track should
be dry and fast by Derby time.
|WILDCAT RED — At this point, I’m really beginning to wonder if Wildcat Red is
going to pull a Little Mike on us and just keep doing everything we say he
can’t do. Pedigree-wise, the Florida Derby might just be as far as he will
want to go, but he’s so gritty that he makes you question what really
is outside his scope. As a front-runner, he’ll obviously continue to benefit
from the speed bias at Gulfstream, but if archrival General a Rod or any of the
other speed engages him early and often, it very well could be game over.
Regardless, I’m not jumping ship now. Contender.
- (D'wildcat - Racene, by Miner's Mark) has posted improving speed figures in
every race. He’s shown that he can rate, but drawing the one hole all but
guarantees that he’ll have to shoot out of there to keep from being closed
off on the rail. Saez jumps off to ride his regular mount Cairo Prince, so
Johnny V. picks up the reins. I agree with Ashley that 1 1/8 miles will
likely be at the top of Wildcat Red’s scope. I don’t like his position or
running style. Nor do I like the fact
that he took a whole month off before posting a breeze after the Fountain of
Youth and posted a 3 furlong bullet “lung opener” in his last breeze. That indicates to me that the FOY took a lot
out of him and he’s been sharpened for the Florida Derby. This colt doesn’t know when to quit and
perhaps he can finish in the money, but I’ll take a pass here.
MATADOR — In the Tampa Bay Derby, he did pretty much what I expected him to
do. Trailing early, he improved his position late to get up for 5th,
5¾ lengths behind the day’s winner. He enters this spot off a 3 week
turnaround and qualifies for the 3rd off the layoff factor. He
gets blinkers for the first time, making me wonder if trainer Mark Casse
wants to try to get him more involved early on due to the nature of the
Gulfstream course. Casse gets 5% winners with 1st time blinkers
and 10% winners overall with blinkers on. Seems like this is a last ditch
effort to get Matador into the Churchill starting gate, and if you’re going
to experiment, now’s the time to do so because he has nothing to lose and
everything to gain. Pass.
|MATADOR (Malibu Moon -
I'm Breathtaking, by Elusive Quality) has finished off of the board in both
of his two starts this year, which were Tampa stakes races and his only on
the board finishes were in turf races.
Matador’s dam is a half-sister to Golden Itiz, a turf/Poly winner and to
Sapphire N’ Silk, the dam of graded stakes winners Shaniko and Silky Smooth. Another half-sister bore Breeders' Cup
Filly & Mare Turf heroine Shared Account.
See a trend? Pass.
|CAIRO PRINCE —With all the defects and based
on the Kentucky Derby field if the race were run today, this son of Pioneerof
the Nile is my top selection to win it all. Unlike a majority of this field,
he’s already tested at 9 furlongs, and he lost that decision by a scant nose
to a colt many had pegged as their early Kentucky Derby favorite. I don’t
like that the colt has been off since his Holy Bull victory in January, but
that may give him a freshness edge over the more battle-tested entrants like
Wildcat Red. His works have been good, including a bullet 5 furlong move at
the beginning of the month. McLaughlin is good at having his charges ready to
fire off a layoff, so I see no reason to doubt Cairo Prince here. Winner
CAIRO PRINCE - (Pioneerof the Nile - Holy Bubbette,
by Holy Bull) is a short nose away from being undefeated. Pioneerof The Nile’s
babies are as tough as they come and don’t know the meaning of quit. Cairo
Prince is proven at 1 1/8 miles and over the Gulfstream dirt. I agree with
Ashley that he’s the horse to beat. Major contender.
CONSTITUTION — Undefeated Constitution is Todd Pletcher’s sole runner here.
Two-for-two at Gulfstream with Pletcher and jockey Javier Castellano in his
corner does much to recommend him, but is he ready for this spot off just two
career starts? Big Brown managed that feat in 2008, but he would be the
exception and not the rule. His front-running style will help so long as he
doesn’t get tangled up in a speed duel. It goes against my logic to ignore a
Pletcher entrant at Gulfstream, but I’m just not convinced…yet. Use for
|CONSTITUTION (Tapit -
Baffled, by Distorted Humor) has the pedigree to handle 1 1/8 miles. Sure, he’s
raced only twice, but his speed figures are on par or better than the rest of
the Florida Derby field. The beautiful dark bay colt’s dam is a half-sister
to Forgo winner Emcee and stakes winner Spring Party, so there’s certainly
class in his family. Constitution toyed with the fields in both of his starts
and now is the time to figure out where he fits. If he’s as talented as I
think he is, this late-comer could be this year’s Big Brown, without the ‘roids.
|EAST HALL— I’m developing a love/hate relationship with this gelding. When I
overlooked him in the Fountain of Youth, he ran huge to get a share of the
exotics. When I changed my tune and gave him a shot in the Tampa Bay Derby,
he flopped. So I’m just going to go back to my original assessment of him.
No, thank you.
- (Graeme Hall - East Long Lake, by Sultry Song) has a definite pattern in
his Bris speed figures. I don’t think he cared for the Tampa surface and his running
style doesn’t really work with the Gulfstream speed bias, plus his pedigree
is borderline for 1 1/8 miles. East
Hall is a second tier contender who may pass tired horses to clunk up into
fourth place. Ashley and I both have a love/hate relationship with this one.
I liked him in the Fountain of Youth, but jumped off of him for the Tampa Bay
Derby. If one of the top horses fail to run their race, East Hall could fill
out the lower exotics again. If you’re doing a super box, he is one that
could get up for fourth place.
GENERAL A ROD — Along with rival Wildcat Red, General a Rod has given us some thrills
on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. In two starts against one another, the two
colts split the series with a win apiece. Last out, he missed by a head to
Wildcat Red, but both have to travel an extra sixteenth of a mile this time.
Though they finished clear of third place finisher Top Billing last time, that
added distance may be just what a presser/closer needs to get by them in the
stretch. Still a contender, though.
|GENERAL A ROD - (Roman Ruler -
Dynamite Eyes, by Dynaformer) comes back for what could be the finale of the
Wildcat Red General A Rod trilogy. This colt has a better pedigree for
getting 1 1/8 miles than his nemesis. He also shows a better work pattern,
including a sharp second to last five furlong breeze. General A Rod has shown
improvement in every start and can continue to improve. Major Contender.
— Who??? A win in the slop and a win sprinting, both at Calder, do little to
recommend him against this bunch. Sire Flower Alley can get a classic winner,
but dam Carolina Blue was a non-winner in 4 starts and second dam Incredible
Me won just once in 18 tries. A first glance showed me nothing noteworthy, but
a little digging around showed that there is some class in the distaff line.
Carolina Blue’s half-sister Upside produced stakes winner Red Lead, and their
female family, 1-n, produced Kentucky Derby winners Swale and Genuine Risk.
Pedigree possibilities aside, I’d say it’s safe to say Allstar is a toss.
ALLSTAR (Flower Alley -
Carolina Blue, by Victory Gallop) is by the same sire as 2012 Kentucky Derby
winner I’ll Have Another out of a mare by a Belmont Stakes winner. He should
just be getting warmed up at 1 1/8 miles. Allstar was originally owned by the
Coolmore gang and trained by Pletcher.
That being said, I have no clue why they forked over $175K for this
colt at auction. His dam went 0-4 in her career and there’s little blacktype
in the family. He could develop into a
nice colt, but I think this step is too steep. Keep him in mind for the Calder Derby if he
enters. That being said…I’m in
agreement with Ashley, pass.
SPOT — Laurie loves Spot, but I just can’t get on board with him. I don’t think
I can really even take anything away from his Swale victory. Sure, beating No
Nay Never “proved” his class, but I have two big issues with that. First of
all, No Nay Never was making his first ever traditional dirt start, and
secondly, he was in off a layoff. A lot of people will say that if No Nay
Never was as good as he was hyped to be, he would have found a way to win.
That sounds good, but it’s not really a fair statement. I like Spot for a
shot at filling at the exotics, but that’s about it.
|SPOT (Pulpit - Quiet
Summernight, by Quiet American) is this year’s “Zito Special.” Spot did indeed run in the Swale Stakes and
was in front under the wire. His sire Pulpit gave us 2010 Florida Derby
winner Dialed in – trained by Nick Zito.
Zito’s charges have won the Florida Derby three times, twice
back-to-back, and his charges completed the exacta in 2005, thus the “Zito
Special” moniker. I have a fondness for Spot, but I’m wary. The pretty gray
colt has an obvious “good race/bad race” cycle. His overall speed figures fit
with these contenders and if he runs as well as he did in the Swale, Spot has
a chance to upset the field. You’re right, Ashley, I do love Spot. Contender.
Less than half of the favorites in the Florida Derby have succeeded
in the last ten years and overall, favorites have won at this class level and
distance at Gulfstream only 37% off the time, although they finish in the money
72%. The average winning payoff is $8 and we’ve cashed some nice exotics
tickets over the years.
ASHLEY: I see Wildcat
Red and General a Rod going
straight to the front, battling it out on the lead like they have been doing. A
few others could try to join them, but the smart thing to do would be to let
those two duke it out and try to stay within striking distance early. I’m not
convinced that either will be the winner, but I like their chances of sticking
around in the end. I’ll take Cairo
Prince over the dynamic dueling duo for the top three spots. Chalky
selections, I know, but I really think there’s a clear divide between those
with a shot and those with no chance at all.
I agree with you about those with a shot and those without, but I don’t see a
replay of the Fountain of Youth here. It’s true that Wildcat Red and General A
Rod appear to own all of the early speed, but I think both connections want to
avoid another drag race at the risk of handing the trophy to someone else. All
of the jocks are conscious of the speed favoring track, so they won’t let anyone
slip away on the lead. I think Cairo
Prince and Constitution will be right there to pressure Wildcat Red and General
The consensus between Ashley and I, and
probably most of the racing world, is that Cairo
Prince is the horse to beat in the Florida Derby. The only chink in his
armor is the 63 day layoff. With 14 Kentucky Derby points tucked away in his
saddlebag, the colt doesn’t need to win, just finish second or third.
I’m going to tap General A Rod for the win. I like his breeze pattern after the
Fountain of Youth, he doesn’t need to be on the pace to run his best race, and
Rosario has won with him before.
I’ll toss in Constitution for third place. He could be good enough to win it,
but I’ll put the known class ahead of him.
I’m torn between Spot and East Hall for fourth place. If one of
the top three fails to run his race, Spot has a shot – IF he breaks that
good/bad race cycle.
ASHLEY: Cairo Prince over
the dynamic duo of Wildcat Red & General A Rod. If you’re doing a Super
box, toss in Constitution or Spot to fill out fourth place.
LAURIE: General A Rod, Cairo Prince, Constitution,
Spot. I’ll play a super box with these
three and possibly do another box alternating with East Hall for fourth.