Tiz the Law, the 3-year-old division leader, will attempt to keep his momentum going after capturing the Holy Bull Stakes (G2) last month. He lost training time after that, however, and now faces the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) winner Ete Indien again. Independence Hall and Gouverneur Morris are also prominent in this 1 1/8-mile feature.
The Florida Derby is carded as Race 14 with a post time of 6:36 p.m. ET.
1. As Seen On Tv, 12-1 (Lookin at Lucky – Kelly Breen/Paco Lopez – 5: 2-2-1): After a close battle to lose by a head in the local Mucho Macho Man Stakes, he was an interesting horse on the trail with some upside. This colt is bred top and bottom to route and figured to move forward, but he disappointed with a flat third-place finish as the 2-1 second choice in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2), 8 ¾ lengths behind Ete Indien. The rail post will help him save ground in this spot and he could use that to his advantage for a piece of the pie again. But in terms of the top slot, the right horse is elsewhere. Use underneath.
2. Shivaree, 30-1 (Awesome Of Course – Ralph Nicks/Emisael Jaramillo – 9: 3-2-1): His two-turn route attempt last September is not too inspiring, as he finished a finished a distant fifth by 12 ½ lengths to Chance It in the Florida Sire In Reality Stakes. Also notice that his half-brother is Garter and Tie, who ran a dismal 10th in this race last year and went back to sprint distances afterwards. Expect similar for Shivaree. Toss.
3. Disc Jockey, 20-1 (Bodemeister – Saffie Joseph Jr./Tyler Gaffalione– 3: 2-1-0): Given his most recent effort is a runner-up finish in a local starter stakes, it is hard to imagine him hitting the top half of this field. If he manages to win or break into the trifecta, it will defy all handicapping logic. Toss.
4. Soros, 30-1 (Commissioner – Gustavo Delgado/Edgar Prado – 2: 1-1-0): Given he lost to the slow Fort McHenry at Gulfstream Park West last November, he would also defy logic by winning this race. To Soros’ credit, he did go on to win the Smooth Air Stakes locally later in the month. But he defeated a weak field. He would need to move 20 lengths or more off the layoff to compete in this spot. Toss.
5. Gouverneur Morris, 8-1 (Constitution – Todd Pletcher/John Velazquez – 3: 2-1-0): This Pletcher-trained runner garnered buzz before his debut at Saratoga last September. Subsequently, the public let him go at less than even money, and he responded with a nine-length win on slop. In his second start, he was second but well beaten by Maxfield in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1). To Gouverneur Morris’ credit, some handicappers regard Maxfield as a possible super horse. Perhaps this one only needed more seasoning. After a break, Gouverneur Morris returned in an optional claimer at Tampa Bay Downs last month and beat a loose-on-the-lead Untitled by 1 ¼ lengths. It is concerning that Letmeno and Sounion only finished five lengths behind them, though, as neither of those horses are especially fast. Gouverneur Morris’ TimeformUS Speed Figures are nothing eye-opening either with a 111, 101 and 96 in his three starts. Regardless, trifecta and superfecta tickets must include him. Use underneath.
6. Ajaaweed, 20-1 (Curlin – Kiaran McLaughlin/Luis Saez – 5: 1-1-1): Despite a perfect pace setup in the Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3), this closer didn’t threaten, crosseing the wire 13 ¾ lengths behind Sole Volante. The concerning part is that Sole Volante is a closer who took advantage, yet Ajaaweed never got in the right zip code. A quality horse would at least make a dent with a pace setup, no matter if the distance is slightly less than ideal. He does get the extra ground now, and if the pace is hot, he might clunk his way on the board. Use underneath.
7. Tiz the Law, 6/5 (Constitution – Barclay Tagg/Manuel Franco – 4: 3-0-1): After winning the Champagne Stakes (G1) in only his second start, Tiz the Law disappointed backers with a third-place finish in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2). In that race, he did not appreciate the pocket position and was discouraged in the stretch when an opening came up. But in his return start in the Holy Bull, Franco gave an interesting ride by taking up along the back stretch in order to tip Tiz the Law into the clear. The tactics helped, and he fired by challenging Ete Indien on the far turn and proving the better horse. He could fire again, but note the gap his work tab between Feb. 10 and March 2 due to a foot bruise. In addition, he also tries nine furlongs for the first time, and bettors are often advised to play against a heavy favorite trying something new. Win contender.
8. My First Grammy, 50-1 (Curlin – Amador Sanchez/Hector Isaac Berrios – 3: 0-1-1): After losing by 6 ¼ lengths earlier this month in a local one-mile race, it is difficult to endorse this maiden. His presence is only notable because he brings speed to the table, which means he could end up being a nuisance to Ete Indien. By the far turn, though, expect him to fold under the weight of more talented horses. Toss.
9. Independence Hall, 9/2 (Constitution – Michael Trombetta/Joel Rosario – 4: 3-1-0): Detractors argue he is distance-limited because he finished second in the Sam F. Davis after Sole Volante mowed him down. But if every speed horse who ran second in a route was a sprinter or miler, then how many routers are left? Independence Hall actually ran well in his defeat. The son of Constitution chased a speed duel by Premier Star and Chapalu and continued on to fight in the stretch while those two horses folded badly. Notice that Independence Hall had 12 ½ lengths on the fourth-place horse after a half mile in 46.52 and 11 ¼ lengths on Ajaaweed at the finish line. Independence Hall ran hard at almost every point in the race. Also note that Sole Volante returned to close for a strong second in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) after getting caught behind a slow half mile in 48.16. With his odds likely sticking around 9/2 because of Tiz the Law and Ete Indien, he offers value as well. It’s possible Independence Hall isn’t the best horse going up against Tiz the Law, but he’s the right one to bet. The pick.
10. Candy Tycoon, 20-1 (Twirling Candy – Todd Pletcher/Javier Castellano – 6: 1-2-2): As with his stablemate Gouverneur Morris, this Pletcher trainee had hype at Saratoga last summer before his debut. Unfortunately, he burned money with a third-place finish and continued to do so until breaking his maiden locally on Jan. 25. He then moved forward with a runner-up finish to Ete Indien in the Fountain of Youth. Even though he lost by 8 ½ lengths, roughly the same margin as As Seen On Tv, Candy Tycoon gets more credit having just made a jump to stakes company. As the months progress, he could still develop into a formidable 3-year-old. For now, he is limited to the bottom slots in a difficult spot. Use underneath.
11. Sassy But Smart, 50-1 (Overdriven – Kendall Condie/Joe Bravo – 4: 1-1-1): This one did finish fourth by 1 ¾ lengths in the Palm Beach Stakes (G3) on turf. The winner Vitalogy previously finished second in the Bourbon Stakes (G3) at Keeneland last fall. Sassy But Smart also broke his maiden on turf. Can he transfer that form to dirt? His only try is a fourth-place finish in a maiden sprint in January. This post will hurt as well, as only talented horses win from the outside in two-turn Gulfstream routes. Toss.
12. Ete Indien, 4-1 (Summer Front – Patrick Biancone/Florent Geroux – 5: 3-1-0): No one can deny this colt is a talented pacesetter. In the Holy Bull, he finished a strong second after taking some mild pressure from Relentless Dancer early. Despite eventually losing by three lengths to Tiz the Law, he managed to separate himself by 11 ½ lengths from the third-place Toledo. Spaced-out margins are always a great sign in dirt racing. Ete Indien also backed up the effort with an 8 ½-length win in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) against mild competition. But if Tiz the Law passed him with no problem in the Holy Bull, why not choose him again? Of course, the value is low on Tiz the Law, and this one is working exceptionally well. But the longer nine-furlong distance is a question mark, especially since he looked tired toward the end of the Holy Bull and Fountain of Youth. As a last strike, he draws a bad post position too, although he proved in the Fountain of Youth that he owns the speed to clear the field. Even though his morning line odds say 4-1, that is not realistic. Expect 2-1 or 5/2, and if that is right, the value is questionable. Win contender.
13. Rogue Element (Honor Code – Dale Romans/Miguel Vasquez – 3: 0-1-0): If this maiden draws in and wins from Post 12, it will be one of the biggest upsets in Florida Derby history. He is better off trying to break his maiden. Perhaps the connections think the track might close soon and want to take shot. Toss.
Conclusion: Odds and value aside, Tiz the Law looks best on paper. He owns the right running style and drew a post position that will allow him to run in the clear. The only knock on him is whether he can fire his best having lost some training time.
Ete Indien is training superbly and owns plenty of speed, which he used to finish second to Tiz the Law in the Holy Bull and win the Fountain of Youth. Can, however, Ete Indien handle nine furlongs?
Independence Hall brings stamina questions as well after finishing second in the Sam F. Davis. But he gets a pass for the fast pace and will likely go off as third choice. He can win this race and offers better value than the two names above.
As long as Independence Hall is third choice or higher, he is the pick.