Upfront, I just want to apologize for a few of the people that have been reading these every week. I don’t have a lot of the time to go as in depth in this article with some of these horses that I have been. I have studied the past performances just as much as I always do, but I just don’t have the time to get them on paper before this race tomorrow.
The $1,000,000 – Grade 1: Xpressbet Florida Derby features Antonio Sano trainee GUNNEVERA who is on most pundits Derby watch lists. He is definitely a horse that has proven himself multiple times and if things break his way tomorrow, he will almost certainly be one of the Derby favorites. GUNNEVERA’s biggest threat in the Florida Derby will be his post position. At 1-1/8 mile at Gulfstream Park, the chances of horses winning from out there is greatly inhibited by how quickly the turn approaches. Other contenders include surprise, surprise, another couple of Todd Pletcher’s entries; ALWAYS DREAMING. A 3-year-old dark bay colt by BODEMEISTER, ALWAYS DREAMING has shown in all four starts that he is something real about him. He is a a bit of a late developer on the Derby scene, He broke his maiden in stylish fashion, winning by 11-1/2 lengths Tampa Bay in late January. He followed that up with a very similar effort being ridden out at Gulfstream in his first allowance attempt at odds of 1/9. The Florida Derby will be his first real test. BATTALLION RUNNER apparently will be scratched and head towards the Santa Anita Derby. He was only entered in this race as an insurance policy if ALWAYS DREAMING drew the outside post position.
Here is a breakdown of all the runners…. (The abbreviated version)
#1 – STATE OF HONOR: Has not won since October at Woodbine, but continues to put forth solid numbers and pace figures that can rival any horse in here.
OUTLOOK: He is one of my top plays in this race after drawing an inside post position. I fully expect him to be part of the pace scenario and never look back turning for home. Not all that much speed in here particularly if the outside horses take back. He is my TOP PLAY depending on odds.
#2 – TALK LOGISTICS: Has not won since his 2-year-old debut last July at Parx. Eddie Plesa can get horses to turn the right direction quickly, but it’s going to have to be a career best and he hasn’t shown the ability in his last two graded races.
OUTLOOK: At this point, it’s hard to gauge what they want this horse to do. He showed speed in the Holy Bull, dropped back in the Fountain of Youth. Too many questions to play on top. Exotics, maybe.
#3 – CHARLIE THE GREEK: Let’s just say it up front, I have no idea what this horse is doing in this race. He has ran some decent claiming efforts, but they are wearing this horse down. He has 7 starts since December 30th, and is coming back in a week, CRAZY!
OUTLOOK: No chance, should be 99-1.
#4 – ALWAYS DREAMING: We talked about this one up top, John Velazquez is listed as the rider on both of Pletcher’s entries. It is very important to note that the only reason this happened is because one of these horses will be scratched. Most likely ALWAYS DREAMING now will get to run in the race he was pointed towards, but I just don’t see him winning it this time around. I have been on the Pletcher bandwagon all Spring, but in this case, due to some pace factors and the other talent in the race, I think this one runs into trouble.
OUTLOOK: Toughest test to the day, I think he could be a little overwhelmed in this spot, so I am going to play against him. Further explanation as you read on.
#5 – QUINIENTOS: Going off at 191-1 in the Fountain of Youth was certainly not fair based on the pace numbers I see in his maiden special weight victory and the decent effort in the Just One Mare Stakes, but breaking 6th and finishing 6th shows that it was a little too much to ask.
OUTLOOK: You could use this one in 3rd and 4th to boost exotic prices if you are playing tris and supers, but beyond that 50-1+ is fair for win odds.
#6 – COLEMAN ROCKY: This one is a little harder to gauge considering his maiden score came on grass, and the recent effort was on the slop. Granted he was closing like a freight train and ran out of time.
OUTLOOK: If you want a closer with some kick this horse deserves some thought underneath in exotics, but beyond that the pace figures are just not fast enough.
#7 – UNBRIDLED HOLIDAY: This is another one that just doesn’t quite add up why he is in this race. The pace numbers are just slow and the maiden score came in state bred company.
OUTLOOK: Patrick Biancone is taking a shot, but this one again can’t be used in any spot unless you are pushing ALL.
#8 – IMPRESSIVE EDGE: He has improved greatly since switching from Asmussen to Romans, but the pace numbers in the impressive wins are surprisingly low considering the two wins came by a combined 12-1/2 lengths.
OUTLOOK: Had a bit of trouble in the Swale Stakes and the pace numbers are going to need to improve for this one to have a chance, but when you look at the last two I expect it. Worth a shot at the right price.
#9 – BATTALLION RUNNER: The second Todd Pletcher entry in this race could be his best of all. He has thrown up bullet after bullet. His pace numbers are extremely good.
OUTLOOK: After the post position draw, there is a 99% chance he is scratched on Saturday. Look for him in next weeks Santa Anita Derby.
#10 – THREE RULES: Jose Pinchin was pushing all the right buttons with this one as a 2-year-old until Breeders’ Cup day, got caught wide chasing and weakened.
OUTLOOK: The two starts as a 3-year-old have not been bad and because of the post position, I think this one will try to clear from the outside and win like he did as a 2-year-old. IN THE MIX
#11 – GUNNEVERA: We have talked about GUNNEVERA a lot and if you watch racing regularly this horse comes up regularly in Derby talk. The improvement since the Saratoga Special in August has been extraordinary.
OUTLOOK: This horse will need a hot pace up front and I just don’t know if it’s going to happen. It depends a lot on THREE RULES, if he doesn’t go, it could be done-zo for Gunn-zo. At short odds, not worth it. The outside post position at 1-1/8 mile is detrimental, one choice, drop back and take one run.