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Breeders' Cup 2017

Longshot Ice Box takes Florida Derby shocker

Longshot Ice Box, sent off at 20-1, lit up the tote board of the Florida Derby with a nose victory over 29-1 Pleasant Prince.   

Underscoring the size of the upset, in last week's Horse Racing Nation Power Rankings poll, Ice Box was ranked #56, Pleasant Prince #89 and Rule was #3. 

Trained by Nick Zito for owner Robert LaPenta, much more attention was paid to their other starter - Miner Reserve, who was sent off at 6-1 but struggled home in 10th. 

The race complexion started off strangely as in a race full of speed, where many were questioning who would run with favored Rule and how he would respond, it was Corey Nakatani aboard late-running Pulsion that went straight to the lead.

Pulsion set a very solid pace of :23 1/5, :46 2/5 for the half-mile and 1:10 3/5 for six furlongs, shadowed by favored Rule the entire time.  The favorite took over at the top of the stretch, scooted away from the field, but the late runners were coming with increasing momentum. 

After the tiring 1:10 3/5 for three-quarters, Rule was decelerating and hit the mile in 1:36 before being overtaken by the closing longshots, who completed the 1 1/8 miles in 1:49, meaning the final three furlongs were run in a lackluster :38 2/5 seconds.

Lentenor, who had quickly dropped back to 10th, closed well for fourth, nearly six lengths behind the winner.  Other than Rule, three of the top four were the three in the back at the beginning.

Horse                  1/2    Finish
Ice Box               11th   1st
Pleasant Prince    9th   2nd
Rule                     2nd   3rd
Lentenor            10th   4th

Kentucky Derby Outlook

So, the question is, looking ahead to the Kentucky Derby, what do we make of the Florida Derby? 

Well, the first point is obvious.  For Rule, let's all collectively say: "He is what we knew he was".  Rule is a very nice front-runner, but he's going to have a tough time as a one-dimensional runner.  He'll win some big races and look great one day, but in a big field with a fast pace, he will be compromised. 

Ice Box and Pleasant Prince
Making nice runs, the Florida Derby 1-2 finishers are now on the Derby radar screen.  They also now have considerable earnings and solid pedigrees for distance.  Ice Box is by Pulpit out of a Tabasco Cat mare, and Pleasant Prince is out of the A. P. Indy sire Indy King, out of a Pleasant Tap mare.  Interestingly, they are both field horses in both pools of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager, underscoring the openness of this year's Derby trail. 

But given the fact that they were longshots, and made big closing runs after a hot pace, most people will rightfully view them both with a healthy dose of skepticism until they can duplicate a similar effort. 

But the obvious conclusion for many will be that Ice Box and Pleasant Prince, the 5th and 4th place Fountain of Youth winners, flattered Eskendereya who was 10 1/4 and 12 lengths clear of these two last time.

However, our HorseRacingNation handicappers say beware of the Fountain of Youth as a yardstick.  Eskendereya looked formidable that day, but he was aided by a slow pace, a lack of contending speed, and a possible track bias.  So as much as the Florida Derby flatters Eskendereya, keep in mind that it may have made him look better than in reality as a speed-biased track and a slow pace completely hindered late runners like Ice Box and Pleasant Prince. 

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Older Comments about Longshot Ice Box takes Florida Derby shocker...

If using BSF's, Eskendereya got a 106 in the FOY. Ice Box got a 99 in the Florida Derby. 2 Beyer points equal a length in routes, so Eskendereya ran about 3.5 lengths faster. Great to see a successful Florida Derby day at the Gulf.
Musket Man - Eskendereya ran the FOY in 1:48 4/5, not two seconds faster than Ice Box. Also, GP had a really good day on Saturday. Great attendance, great handle. Tracks have to decide what business they are in? The business of producing top Derby contenders like Dunkirk and Quality Road, or producing nice increases in handle/attendance like they did on Saturday.
GP ran three graded nine furlong races on Florida Derby Day. Bonnie Miss (1:49.06) was the fastest, followed by Florida Derby (1:49,19) and Rampart (1:49.36). Was not impressed with the Florida Derby, but Bonnie Miss winner Devil May Care looms a legit Ky Oaks contender.
Sloww time for a fast playing Gulfstream Main track. Maybe they wanted it to play slow after all the talk last year about how it was impossible for Dunkirk to close on Quality Road b/c the track was packed so tight. 1:49:1 is def nothing to be ashamed of, but Eskenderya won by about 2 seconds less in the FOY. I don't think this race was particularly strong (Magna shot itself in the foot changing the date) and I don't expect anyone in this race to hit the board at Churchill
The Florida Derby 1-2-3 are going straight to the Kentucky Derby. Wow - that really makes it interesting. Here are three horses with big questions, but at the same time unbelievably tough if the right scenario develops. If Rule gets left alone on the lead in Louisville, I wouldn't want to bet against him. In the same way, if there's a hot pace, as there often is, I sure would want to have Ice box and Pleasant Prince on my tickets. In terms of Beyer figs, Ice Box and Pleasant Prince got a solid 99 for the race - about as good as any 3yo prep this year. Rule was 1 1/4 lengths back in third, so figure he got a 96 or 97.
A few things learned from the Florida Derby. Do not think any of these are Derby material, but results sure did flatter Eskendereya. Two entry level horses (Ice Box, Pleasant Prince) just picked up a nice chunk of graded change. As for Rule, he never made it into my Derby Top 10. Not a bad effort but a cut below as expected.
A wild finish. I thought all along the 4th and 5th place finishers from the Fountain of Youth were better than given credit, it was just tough to use them on top.

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