Kentucky Derby prep: Florida Derby odds and analysis

Kentucky Derby prep: Florida Derby odds and analysis
Photo: Jamie Newell

The Grade 1, $1 million Florida Derby, which will be run Saturday, is the final official prep race at Gulfstream Park on the road to Kentucky Derby 2023. The 1 1/8 mile race drew a field of 12 3-year-olds who will compete for the 100-40-30-20-10 points that go to the top five eligible finishers.

Forte was made the 4-5 morning line favorite as his trainer Todd Pletcher will try and win the Florida Derby for the seventh time. Forte finished first in 5 of 6 career starts and brings 90 Derby qualifying points with him, and the rest of the field combined has only 48. Pletcher’s winners include Scat Daddy in 2007, 2017 run for the roses victor Always Dreaming and most recently Known Agenda in 2021.

Here is a full-field analysis for the Florida Derby, which is scheduled as the final race of 14 with post time set for 6:40 p.m. EDT. Each horse is shown with the official track morning-line odds, his sire, trainer, jockey, record, purse earnings and Derby qualifying points.

1. Jungfrau (20-1, Arrogate, Bill Mott, Paco Lopez, 4: 1-0-0, $57,150, 0 Derby points) Jungfrau was a maiden winner through disqualification in his third start, which was at Gulfstream. He went back to Aqueduct to try the Derby trail in the Withers (G3), where he was rank after a troubled start and was a distant sixth. Toss.

2. West Coast Cowboy (20-1, West Coast, Saffie Joseph Jr., Sonny Leon, 3: 1-0-1, $50,450, 6 Derby points) West Coast Cowboy is the first of four long shots in this field from the barn of Saffie Joseph. He won his first start by a neck in September at Gulfstream on a sloppy track and then was fourth against winners in an allowance. He debuted as a 3-year-old in the Holy Bull (G3) and finished third with his best speed figure, which was relatively slow in terms of the Florida Derby. Toss.

3. Shaq Diesel (30-1, Khozan, Renaldo Richards, Miguel Vasquez, 8: 3-0-1, $70,500, 0 Derby points) Shaq Diesel has three wins from eight starts going back to October, when he won a maiden claimer and a starter allowance in his first two starts. Three tries in stakes races yielded a third in the Pasco at Tampa Bay Downs, and most recently he was 10th in the Risen Star (G2) without Lasix. Blinkers come off for the first time. Toss.

4. Mage (10-1, Good Magic, Gustavo Delgado, Luis Saez, 2: 1-0-0, $61,200, 10 Derby points) Mage impressed in his debut victory at Gulfstream in January when he won by almost four lengths with Lasix. Trainer Gustavo Delgado tried to make a big step up in class in the Fountain of Youth (G2), where he finished fourth with a similar speed figure to his victory. He will have to run again without the medication. Live long shot.

5. Mr. Peeks (30-1, California Chrome, Saffie Joseph Jr., Edwin Gonzalez, 2: M-1-0, $18,900, 0 Derby points) Mr. Peeks was moved to Saffie Joseph after two maiden starts in sprints at Gulfstream, where he set the early fractions and faded down the lane. He is still a maiden and could influence the pace. Toss.

6. Nautical Star (30-1, Dixie Chatter, Saffie Joseph Jr., Leonel Reyes, 2: 1-0-0, $58,500, 0 Derby points) This Oklahoma-bred broke his maiden in his second try at Oaklawn with a closing move. He then was transferred to Joseph at Gulfstream where he had three workouts. Toss.

7. Il Miracolo (30-1, Gun Runner, Antonio Sano, Jesus Rios, 8: 1-3-0, $66,1125, 2 Derby points) Since graduating from the maiden ranks Il Miracolo was not competitive in four stakes races, two of which were on the Derby trail. The best he did was a distant fifth in the Holy Bull. Blinkers will go on as trainer Sano tries to figure out Il Miracolo. Toss.

8. Mr. Ripple (30-1, Dialed In, Saffie Joseph Jr., Edgard Zayas, 3: 1-1-1, $47,760, 0 Derby points) Mr. Ripple had an impressive debut victory over Il Miracolo as a 2-year-old by more than nine lengths going a mile at Gulfstream. In a pair of allowance starts he was third and second both times behind good horses. Use underneath.

9. Cyclone Mischief (8-1, Into Mischief, Dale Romans, Javier Castellano, 6: 2-0-2, $153,350, 15 Derby points) Cyclone Mischief’s form in 2023 is hard to figure. After a strong debut in an allowance at Gulfstream he was not a factor in the Holy Bull. He was hard sent to the lead in the Fountain of Youth and weakened to finish a non-threatening third behind Forte and Rocket Can. Toss.

10. Fort Bragg (5-1, Tapit, Tim Yakteen, Joel Rosario, 5: 1-1-2, $90,400, 5 Derby points) Fort Bragg made his first start of the year in the San Felipe (G3) after getting moved to the barn of Tim Yakteen. He showed a little bit of interest in the first six furlongs of the race and then weakened to get fifth. As a juvenile he got disqualified from a maiden win for bumping in the stretch run and then he beat his stablemate Reincarnate to get the official maiden victory. In the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2), he was a distant third in a field of five. Fort Bragg will need to improve in his first start outside of California. Use underneath.

11. Forte (4-5, Violence, Todd Pletcher, Irad Ortiz Jr., 6: 5-0-0, $1,833,230, 90 Derby points) Forte won his last four starts with three Grade 1 victories in his Eclipse Award-winning 2-year-old season and in the Fountain of Youth in his first start of this year. He is the Kentucky Derby favorite in Las Vegas futures and in the morning line for pool six of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager from Churchill Downs. There has been lots of discussion about post position 11, but it is unlikely to be a factor with Irad Ortiz in the saddle. Top choice.

12. Dubyuhnell (6-1, Good Magic, Danny Gargan, Jose Ortiz, 4: 2-0-0, $196,050, 10 Derby points) Dubyuhnell made his 2023 debut in the Sam F. Davis (G3) as the favorite and did not do any running after getting steadied at the start. He finds a tougher field and the far outside post next to Forte. His best races last year are probably not good enough for the Florida Derby. Toss.

Summary: In every way, Forte towers over this Florida Derby field. He is a multiple Grade 1 winner, and only one other horse in field is a stakes winner, giving Forte a huge class advantage.

A fast pace is expected, but the horses who will do the early running are unlikely to carry their speed beyond six furlongs. Mage or Fort Bragg are likely to inherit the lead and then will have to face what will be the winning move by Forte as he closes down the middle of the stretch.

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