Head to Head: Handicapping the 2020 Florida Derby

Head to Head: Handicapping the 2020 Florida Derby
Photo: Derbe Glass/NYRA

The Florida Derby wraps up Gulfstream Park's series of preps for the 2020 Kentucky Derby with a dozen 3-year-old colts and geldings and one also-eligible entry in for the 1 1/8-mile race. Post time is 6:36 p.m. ET Saturday.

Ashley Tamulonis of Coast To Coast and I discuss the field and who we like -- from a distance, of course.




This colt has looked good all throughout his career, going 5: 2-2-1, including a third in the Fountain of Youth (G2) last out. He was certainly no match for Ete Indien that day and then was edged for the place by Candy Tycoon. This is a tougher field, so this son of Lookin At Lucky will need to step up if he wants to continue to at least make the trifecta. Use underneath.

As Seen on Tv had a rail trip for much of the way in the Fountain of Youth, which was his two-turn debut. The son of Lookin at Lucky hung like bad antenna in the stretch and was edged out in a blanket finish. He gets the rail again, and Paco Lopez could send him to the front. Maybe he can rebound, but I don’t have Ashley’s confidence. I’m looking elsewhere. Pass.


This Awesome of Course colt’s dam is a half-sister to stellar sprinter/miler Jackson Bend. So far, those are the sort of distances where Shivaree has done his best running. He did try 1 1/16 miles in state-bred company but could only manage fifth. He’s had a nice career sprinting, putting together a 3: 1-2-0 record. Honestly, I do not think he will want any part of nine furlongs. Pass.

Shivaree is a member of Florida racing royalty. Yet, his four black type-earning full and half-siblings are all sprinters. You may remember Shivaree’s half-brother Garter and Tie, who was unplaced in last year’s Holy Bull and Florida Derby. The Ralph Nicks trainee was a distant second to Mischievous Alex in the Swale (G3). Blinkers come off to help him relax, but I don’t think he'll get this distance. Pass.


By Bodemeister, Disc Jockey has raced exclusively at Gulfstream. This will be his two-turn, graded debut, and he looks like he is leagues away from fitting in with the best of the field. Pass.

Disc Jockey was three to four wide the entire way in a local starter stakes last out. He ran a good race, closing gradually down the lane, but couldn’t catch a loose-on-the-lead 70-1 shot. Disc Jockey’s rallying running style will help in a race filled with early speed. Saffie Joseph Jr. has a tremendous 57% win rate over the last year. Do we dare bet against him? Exotics.


This one intrigues me a bit. He debuted against Fort McHenry, brother to California Chrome, and ran second. He then broke his maiden in the Smooth Air Stakes. The speed figure was not impressive, but sire Commissioner got better with age and distance. I would not go with him here off a long layoff but he could be dangerous down the road.

Soros jumps in class and distance after capturing the Smooth Air Stakes. His pedigree is borderline for nine furlongs, and his speed figures are on the low side. Pass.


Never worse than second thus far, Gouverneur Morris comes highly touted. He was second in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) in just his second start and kicked 2020 off with a win in an optional claimer at Tampa Bay Downs. Todd Pletcher is notorious for having his charges ready early in the year, so leave this one off your tickets at your own peril.


One of three sons of 2014 Florida Derby hero Constitution in this field, Gouverneur Morris should handle the distance. His half-brother,  Final Jeopardy, is graded stakes-placed at 10 and 11 furlongs. This Pletcher trainee is making his second start off the layoff and should move forward. Have to respect the connections and could be right there if the favorite stubs a hoof. Contender.


Though he has yet to break through in graded company, Ajaaweed has done quite well for himself at the higher levels. Most recently, he was a non-threatening third in the Sam F. Davis (G3). While he did not get the win, a check is still a check. I did not, however, like the drop in his speed figure from the Remsen (G2) to the Sam F. Davis. I will definitely use him in my exotics.

This one-paced grinder is reliant on a fast early pace, which he might get Saturday. He’s capable of staying closer to the pace, and perhaps we’ll see just that with the jockey change to Luis Saez. This is the kind of horse that clunks up to ruin somebody’s superfecta. Exotics.


Two-time graded stakes winner Tiz the Law was last seen decisively winning the Holy Bull. Ete Indien, the runner-up that day, flattered Tiz the Law with a smashing, front-running victory in the Fountain of Youth. He has not raced since Feb. 1, but his works have been steady of late, and his speed figures are the best in the field. Win contender.

The son of Constitution runs well off a layoff and has shown that he can overcome trouble. The seven post means he’ll get an outside trip, which should help. Nine furlongs should be right up his alley. Contender.


The pedigree on this one is solid, but he does not have the resume to explain why trainer Amador Sanchez placed him here. I’m thinking cheap speed that fades to last. Pass.

My First Grammy is still looking for his first win. He hasn’t been a factor in any race, and I agree with Ashley: cheap speed who will get in the way through the stretch. Pass.


Previously undefeated, Independence Hall chased a hot pace, had the lead in the stretch and conceded it late to Sole Volante in the Sam F. Davis. It was not a terrible performance, but he faces potentially better competition here. I still believe in his talent, though, and will be using him on top, as well as underneath.


Was Independence Hall exposed as a talented miler or did he have an excuse in the Sam F. Davis? Connections say that the son of Constitution lost a shoe and had issues with the tongue tie.  I have concerns about this guy. His pace-setting/pressing style means he’ll have to go early to get position, and his temperament may not let him relax once he’s secured his spot. Note that Joel Rosario jumped off Ajaaweed for Independence Hall. Exotics.


Color me impressed. This son of Twirling Candy turned a front-running maiden win into an off-the-pace runner-up effort in the Fountain of Youth. That showed that this colt is versatile, something he will have to be in order to do well here, considering the outside post. Jockey Javier Castellano just tested positive for COVID-19, so expect a jockey change here. After his last performance, I will definitely use him underneath, if not on top.

Candy Tycoon switched running tactics in the Fountain of Youth from pacesetter to closer. I expect that he got a lot out of that race due to his wide trip. The difference between Candy Tycoon and As Seen on Tv in the Fountain of Youth was that Candy Tycoon was moving forward in the stretch while As Seen on Tv was more one-paced. Candy Tycoon doesn’t have the late pace speed figures to be a win contender, but he could hit the board with a good trip. Exotics.


Here’s your token turf runner, in off a close fourth in the Palm Beach (G3). You can’t blame trainer Kendall Condie for giving it a shot, but I’m definitely passing on this son of Overdriven.

Kendall  Condie is hoping for improvement with a turf to dirt move, like Sole Volante.  But Sassy and Smart doesn’t have that one’s late kick. The son of Overdriven had every chance to win the Palm Beach but was passed late. He’ll need to step up here. Pass.


I have really liked the switch to dirt for this son of turf runner Summer Front with Ete Indien showing consistently fast speed figures. There is the possibility that he could bounce after his Fountain of Youth effort, especially considering he drew outside then as well and had to send early in a big effort. Win contender.

The last horse to pull off a Florida Derby victory from the 12 hole was Big Brown in 2008. Florent Geroux will likely employ the same tactics as last time, hustling the son of Summer Front out of the gate to get a good early position. I’m not 100% sure he’ll want nine furlongs, especially after sending early. Exotics.


He had his best career start last out when he went to the lead rather than trying to close from off the pace. Still, he’s definitely in over his head. Pass.

Also-eligible Rogue Element is still a maiden. He has the pedigree, but let him pass kindergarten before enrolling him into high school. Pass.

Final Thoughts

Despite some of the fillers, this is a pretty solid field. I can see one of several winning this, meaning for the bettors, odds should be decent. Ete Indien is up against it trying to get the lead from the outside post. Independence Hall should theoretically be sharper off his Sam F. Davis run, while Tiz the Law may have taken a small step back with the time off.

Laurie:  Traditionally, horses springboard from the Fountain of Youth to the Florida Derby winner’s circle. Other times, an up-and-coming allowance horse takes home the prize. Only two horses since 2006 have pulled off the Holy Bull/Florida Derby double while skipping the Fountain of Youth: Barbaro (2006) and Audible (2018).

Tiz the Law is not a lock to win the Florida Derby. Practically anyone can jump up and run a huge race. However, the only big knocks are the timing and his propensity for getting into tight spots. That being said, I agree with Ashley that there are four or five in here that can pull off the victory. Color me unimaginative, however: I’m sticking with Tiz the Law.




#12 Ete Indien

#7 Tiz the Law

#7 Tiz the Law

#5 Gouverneur Morris

#9 Independence Hall

#12 Ete Indien

#10 Candy Tycoon

#10 Candy Tycoon

Meet Laurie Ross

 HRN Pedigree Analyst 


 Published Author

 Pedigree Research/Consultation/Sales 

 ThoroFan Board Member

 Member – NTWAB

Through hands-on work at barns, I learned valuable lessons about Thoroughbred conformation, gait, and temperament and later worked withThoroughbred rescue/re-train organizations. I have committed my passion for horses to the intensive study of pedigree and breeding theory for the last 20 years. 

I support clients with all aspects of pedigree/breeding analysis, research, sales, catalogue review, and recommendations on claims or private sales. Clients include national leading owners, racing/breeding syndicates, the little guy with one mare, and everyone in between. 10-20% of all proceeds are donated to Thoroughbred rescue & retraining groups. Check out my website, Iron Maidens Thoroughbreds, and the IMTBreds blog.

I welcome your questions regarding pedigree, handicapping, and breeding. If you would like me to cover a specific topic, please contact me. 

Twitter: @IMTBreds
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