Florida Derby 2019: Odds and analysis for Saturday's race

March 27, 2019 01:18pm
Florida Derby 2019: Odds and analysis for Saturday's race
Photo: Adam Mooshian/Gulfstream Park

 Quick Guide to the 2019 Florida Derby

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Odds & Analysis

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Fifteen Florida Derby winners have gone on to win the Kentucky Derby, more than any other prep, with the list including recent names like Orb (2013), Nyquist (2016), and Always Dreaming (2017).

Who could be next? Saturday's Grade 1, $1 million renewal drew a field of 11 going the mile and an eighth distance for the first time. Up for grabs are Derby qualifying points on a 100-40-20-10 scale as well to the Top 4 finishers.

The Florida Derby is carded as the last on a 14 race card with post time scheduled for 6:30 pm ET. Here's a look at the field with the official morning line:

Hidden Scroll [ML 5-2 – Hard Spun – W. Mott/J. Castellano – 2: 1-0-0 - $50,600 – 5 Derby points] This Bill Mott runner has been the subject of much discussion after two career starts. The 14-length debut victory started it. Then,his disappointing fourth-place finish as the favorite in the Fountain of Youth (G2) after setting a hot pace led to more chatter about the ride by Joel Rosario. Javier Castellano will have the mount in the Florida Derby, but the new rider won't make a difference if Hidden Scroll isn't ready to relax in the early going. Use underneath.

Current [ML 15-1 – Curlin – T. Pletcher/M. Franco – 6: 2-0-2 - $222,850 – 0 Derby points] With the Todd Pletcher barn heating up on the Derby trail, the connections of Current have decided to try racing on the dirt again. The son of Curlin has made four of five career starts on the grass, including a win in Keeneland's Bourbon (G3) last year. His lone start on the dirt came on a sloppy Churchill Downs track in the Kentucky Jockey Cup (G2) back in November. He has a closing running style, which fits well given all the speed in here, but the competition will be formidable. Longshot underneath.

Harvey Wallbanger [ML 15-1 – Congrats – K. McPeek/B. Hernandez Jr. – 5: 2-3-0 - $299,520 – 10 Derby points] It's easy to scoff at the once-in-a-lifetime pace setup this one received in his longshot Holy Bull (G2) victory, but at the same time he has never run a bad race. The son of Congrats started his career with three straight place finishes and then broke his maiden in his 2018 finale. This year, it is one start and one win. But given he needed every bit of the setup last time, there are probably better late runners in this Grade 1 field. Toss

Bourbon War [ML 7-2 – Tapit – M. Hennig/I. Ortiz Jr. – 4: 2-1-0 - $155,100 – 20 Derby points] Along with Fountain of Youth winner Code of Honor, this son of Tapit was the beneficiary of the hot pace that set up his big closing move. The impeccably bred colt made a huge late run and galloped out well after going the short stretch. He was farther behind in that race than in any other start, but that was most likely due to the speedy fractions set by Hidden Scroll. Ortiz will need to keep an eye on the pace and Code of Honor’s move if Bourbon War is going to keep up. Win contender.

Everfast [ML 20-1 – Take Charge Indy– D. Romans/C. Landeros – 8: 1-1-1 - $113,885 – 4 Derby points] Everfast was one of two big longshots to connect in the Holy Bull, and this one finished second at odds of 128-1. He came back in the Fountain of Youth at half the price but never lifted a foot while running eighth. Again, he will try and make a late run in a field that has better closers. Toss.

Hard Belle [ML 50-1 – Hard Spun – J. Mejia/J. Batista – 13: 1-1-1 - $43,360 – 0 Derby points] His lone victory came in his debut in a $50,000 maiden claiming race back in October. Since then he has run 12 more times at Gulfstream Park and Gulfstream West. Two tries in graded stakes races resulted in distant eighth-place finishes. Pretender.

Maximum Security [ML 9-2 – New Year’s Day– Ja. Servis/L. Saez – 3: 3-0-0 - $66,600 – 0 Derby points] The numbers to know are 18, 6, and 9, the respective margins of victory in Maximum Security’s perfect career. All three wins came at Gulfstream Park at distances from six to seven furlongs with a debut victory in a maiden claimer, where he was in with a $16,000 tag. Fortunately for connections, the Gary and Mary West homebred wasn't claimed and went on to register two open-length starter allowance wins. The Jason Servis runner will certainly be a pace factor while facing a serious class challenge. Toss.

Bodexpress [ML 30-1 – Bodemeister– G.Delgado/N. Juarez – 4: 0-2-0 - $20,700 – 0 Derby points] Still a maiden, this son of Bodemeister missed winning for the first time by a neck while sprinting at Gulfstream Park in February. Pretender.

Code of Honor [ML 3-1 – Noble Mission – S. McGaughey/J. Velazquez – 4: 2-1-0 - $384,820 – 54 Derby points] As one favorite after another has failed in recent Derby preps, Code of Honor has risen in the Derby rankings. The Shug McGaughey runner deserves to be the pick here considering his victory over a strong field in the Fountain of Youth. McGaughey won the Fountain of Youth and the Florida Derby in 2013 and then went on to get his big victory on the first Saturday in May with Orb. Hall of Famer Johnny Velazquez will be in the saddle and he has won this race four of the last six years. Worthy top choice.

Union’s Destiny [ML 30-1 – Union Rags – Juan Carols Avila/L. Reyes – 4: 1-1-1 - $43,750 – 0 Derby points] Union’s Destiny is another Gulfstream Park based runner who would have to make a significant step up in class to be a contender. The Juan Carlos Avila-trainee has just a maiden victory and most recently was out-classed in the Fountain of Youth after trying to rally from the back of the pack. Pretender.

Garter and Tie [ML 15-1 – Brooks’n Down – R. Nicks/J. Sanchez – 8: 2-2-2 - $286,970 – 0 Derby points] This Florida-bred has made eight starts in his career with two stakes wins. He never won a maiden race as his first win came in a state-bred stake in his fourth start. Garter and Tie added a victory in the Smooth Air at Gulfstream Park, the site of all of his races. The Ralph Nicks trainee was last seen running sixth in the Holy Bull on the Derby trail. Toss.

: The main contenders are also the likely top betting choices who return from the Fountain of Youth in Code of Honor, Bourbon War and Hidden Scroll. If you include the newcomer Maximum Security, then the Florida Derby appears to a race that is more pace dependent than many big races.

Code of Honor and Bourbon War are both going to be making a late run in the mile and an eighth contest. No doubt there will front runners for that duo to chase, but will there be a collapse up front?

Unbeaten Maximum Security should go for the lead and try and take the field gate to wire. The big question will be whether Hidden Scroll has learned to harness his speed since running off in the Fountain of Youth just 28 days ago. After lots of blame thrown on Rosario, the new jockey will be Castellano. Still, Hidden Scroll is making only his third career start, and the distance remains a question for him.

Common sense says that the Florida Derby winner will be one of the closers, either Code of Honor or Bourbon War. McGaughey said Code of Honor was looking for competition when getting caught in the Fountain of Youth. Bourbon War walloped them all on the gallop out. Which of those signs do you trust more?


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