Kentucky Derby 2014: Louisiana & Florida Derby Preview

Kentucky Derby 2014: Louisiana & Florida Derby Preview
Photo: Liz Lamont/Eclipse Sportswire

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 play out…

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 FlowerVicar’s in TroubleRise UpIn 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. Commanding Curve

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 to pass.

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 through him.

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.


 Meet Michael Barry   


 It all started 5 years ago for me after a spur of the moment trip to Saratoga Springs with my future wife.  I had always bet on the Triple Crown races, and made a few trips to Suffolk Downs annually, but not until that journey to The Spa did things get serious for me.  I fell in love with horse racing right then and there and I havent looked back since.  The following year I read every handicapping book I could get my hands on.  I became, and still am, a very passionate student of the game. 


Through this blog I hope to take you guys through my favorite aspect of the game, which is breaking down races and doping out winners.  I focus my attention between the NYRA circuit (mostly), Gulfstream Park, and Keeneland.  I also plan to provide very thorough coverage leading up to the Kentucky Derby and Breeders Cup.  I love analyzing the prep races leading up to both of those grand events. 


Wagering wise, I love playing pick 4s and 5s, and I have enjoyed some success in the past playing those types of exotics.  In any given race, I try to attack based on strength of opinion and value.  That may be in the form of an exacta, trifecta, superfecta, daily double, pick 3, or by laddering my choice across the board.  Every race is its own animal and must be played accordingly.


Personally, I am a graduate of Boston University and reside on the South Shore of Massachusetts with my beautiful wife Tara and wonderful son Finn.  I work as a technician for a communications company by day. 


I can be found on Twitter @mbarry24 and Im always up to discuss anything horse racing related.

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