Horse tracks around the world continue to operate with no fans and as much of a skeleton crew as they can have. Tracks in New York have stopped operations, but tracks in Florida have not, and that includes Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Florida. The final race on the card for Saturday March 28 is the Florida Derby and we’ll break that one down for you in its entirety here at BangTheBook.
The Florida Derby is a 1 1/8 mile dirt race that serves as the second race of the second leg of the Kentucky Derby. As we know, the Kentucky Derby has been pushed back to September thanks to COVID-19, so we’ll see how the schedule shakes out.
The UAE Derby was supposed to be run on Saturday as well, but that has since been canceled. So, too, have the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct and the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland. For now, the Santa Anita Derby is on as scheduled for April 4, but the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn has been pushed back to May 4.
With a win in last week’s Louisiana Derby, Wells Bayou is one of several horses that have enough points to gain entry into the Kentucky Derby. The others are Modernist, Authentic, Ete Indien, Mr. Monomoy, Nadal, Mischevious Alex, Ny Traffic, and King Guillermo, owned by former Cleveland Indians, Boston Red Sox, and Detroit Tigers catcher Victor Martinez, who won the Tampa Bay Derby at 49/1.
As a general rule, the Florida Derby has been a really telling race in terms of the Kentucky Derby. Six Kentucky Derby winners since 2000 have come out of this race. Maximum Security won the Florida Derby and the Kentucky Derby last year, but his win was taken off the board in one of the most controversial decisions ever.
With that in mind, we take a look at this year’s Florida Derby field and a purse that has been cut from $1.1 million to $750,000 because there will be no patrons in the crowd, thus a loss of revenue for the track.
In fact, we’ll first hope that the race goes off. By continuing to race, the track is violating a county order regarding non-essential businesses. For now, the race is on as scheduled, but we’ll see as Saturday approaches. A legal battle could be coming.
For now, here are the post positions, horses, trainers, jockeys, and morning lines for the Florida Derby:
|1||As Seen On Tv||K. Breen||P. Lopez||12/1|
|2||Shivaree||R. Nicks||E. Jaramillo||30/1|
|3||Disc Jockey||S. Joseph Jr.||T. Gaffalione||20/1|
|4||Soros||G. Delgado||E. Prado||30/1|
|5||Gouverneur Morris||T. Pletcher||J. Velazquez||8/1|
|6||Ajaaweed||K. McLaughlin||L. Saez||20/1|
|7||Tiz the Law||B. Tagg||M. Franco||6/5|
|8||My First Grammy||A. Sanchez||H. Berrios||50/1|
|9||Independence Hall||M. Trombetta||J. Rosario||9/2|
|10||Candy Tycoon||T. Pletcher||TBD||20/1|
|11||Sassy But Smart||K. Condie||J. Bravo||50/1|
|12||Ete Indien||P. Biancone||F. Geroux||4/1|
|13(AE)||Rogue Element||D. Romans||M. Vasquez||AE|
As you can see, we’ve got a top-heavy field here. Ete Indien draws a far outside post, but remains the second favorite on the morning line at 4/1. The expectation here is that everybody will be chasing Tiz the Law, who was the clear morning line favorite at 6/5. Independence Hall for the team of Michael Trombetta and Joel Rosario is the third favorite at 9/2.
You notice a TBD next to Candy Tycoon and that is because Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano is in quarantine having tested positive for coronavirus. Castellano will have to cede the mount and no replacement had been named at time of writing. Irad Ortiz Jr. has self-quarantined during all of this, so he will not be the replacement.
Health and safety are paramount, but Pletcher does lose a top rider in his quest for his sixth win in the Florida Derby and fifth since 2014. For what it’s worth, Gouvernor Morris was the likelier option anyway, with John Velazquez in the mount. Pletcher’s three most recent Florida Derby wins have been with Velazquez, as the duo teamed up with Audible in 2018, Always Dreaming in 2017, and Materiality in 2015. Pletcher won with Castellano aboard Constitution in 2014.
Let’s take a look at each horse and construct a betting slip or two for the Florida Derby:
1. As Seen On Tv (12/1) – The team of Kelly Breen and Paco Lopez are together again at Gulfstream after a solid effort in the Fountain of Youth Stakes about a month ago. As Seen On Tv ran third to Ete Indien and Candy Tycoon in that race, but the horses were basically four-wide across for second. Four-wide across, eight lengths behind Ete Indien.
Nevertheless, As Seen On Tv, the son of Lookin At Lucky, was second in the one-mile Mucho Macho Man at Gulfstream to Chance It back in January in what was essentially a photo finish, with As Seen on Tv second by half a nose. The ride from Lopez will be important here. With a lot of speed in the race, it could be about stamina for As Seen on Tv, who has a burst of its own, but a steady pace could be good enough to hit the board. It has been in all of As Seen On Tv’s other races.
2. Shivaree (30/1) – Emisael Jaramillo is an excellent jockey down at Gulfstream, but he’ll need a lot of magic to get Shivaree on the board for Ralph Nicks. Shivaree ran second to With Verve in the Grade 3 Hutcheson Stakes a month ago and second to Mischevious Alex over seven furlongs on February 1 in the Swale Stakes.
Shivaree has only run over a mile once and finished fifth in a race won by Chance It. The pace was decent, but the trip was lackluster. And now Shivaree faces a big step up in class. The length is a worry, too. This horse could be in the hunt for a while, but Jaramillo will have to ask for a lot down the stretch and it might not be there for this sprinter.
3. Disc Jockey (20/1) – Disc Jockey is a slightly interesting long shot price here at 20/1. The Saffie Joseph/Tyler Gaffalione duo has had a lot of success with Chance It and will hope to do the same here with a relatively unknown colt. The son of Bodemeister only had one stakes race to his name, a second in the American Fabius over seven furlongs on February 17.
Disc Jockey was a 7/10 favorite in that race, so finishing second can be viewed as a disappointment. The speed figures aren’t really there from previous races, so it is very tough to buy in with a minimal track record in a field that has some legit Derby contenders, but this is one you may want to file away for exotics. If nothing else, keep this one in mind for the undercards of the Triple Crown races. This horse has a great chance to win some money against similarly accomplished horses.
4. Soros (30/1) – Like Shivaree, Soros brings a terrific local rider to the table in Edgar Prado, who actually has three career wins in this race with Scat Daddy, Barbaro, and Harlan’s Holiday. None of those were with trainer Gustavo Delgado. Soros is coming off the shelf here with a long stakes layoff after winning the Smooth Air Stakes at Gulfstream back in November with a strong one-mile run.
Soros profiles as a closer, both by bloodline and by results. As horses tire from the length, it is a possibility that Soros will pass some of them. Will he pass enough of them to be a consideration in trifectas or superfectas? Probably not, but Delgado hit the board with Majesto in 2016 and Bodexpress in 2019. Last year’s place finish was with Nik Suarez. Prado is a more accomplished rider. Is there a chance Soros spoils the party for the favorites?
5. Gouverneur Morris (8/1) – The Todd Pletcher and John Velazquez connections run deep, as we know. As mentioned already, Pletcher and Velazquez teamed up for wins here in 2015, 2017, and 2018. Will Gouverneur Morris be the next one to add to the list? This is the son of Constitution, who was a winner for Pletcher and Castellano back in 2014 at the Florida Derby.
The problem here is that we haven’t seen a lot from Gouverneur Morris. We know the connections are strong and the bloodline is good, but we don’t have many results. An allowance win at Tampa Bay Downs last month going a mile and 40 was a nice return to the track after a long layoff following a second-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Futurity at Keeneland last October.
Enforceable, who was the favorite last week in the Louisiana Derby, finished third in the Futurity behind Gouverneur Morris and Maxfield, who has not raced since after being scratched in November for a foot issue.
Gouverneur Morris is going to come down from 8/1. We’ll have to wait and see how far.
6. Ajaaweed (20/1) – This isn’t right race and maybe not the right track for Ajaaweed, but this is a horse you will want to keep a very close eye on over the summer for betting opportunities. Originally set to run in the Louisiana Derby last week, Ajaaweed now runs in this race because of the travel restrictions brought about by coronavirus.
One of many sons of Curlin, Ajaaweed has a closer’s bloodline, but how much distance will be required to close in a race of this caliber? Ajaaweed finished a very distant third in the Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs last time out and second to Shotski at Aqueduct in the Remsen Stakes. This is a good horse, but an overmatched horse in this field, even with an excellent team of Kiaran McLaughin and Luis Saez.
7. Tiz the Law (6/5) – The son of Florida Derby winner Constitution is the clear favorite in this year’s version. Tiz the Law is 3-for-4 in his young career, including a very impressive win with stunning speed figures in the Holy Bull Stakes. It was an awesome trip for Manny Franco, who darted out of the gate to set the pace. As other challengers emerged, he backed off, including a blocked path on the back stretch.
The fast start and the scaled-back middle gave Tiz the Law more than enough to outrun Ete Indien over the last quarter of the race. It was a dominant, stunning show of speed in the frontstretch and one that barely required any kind of whip. Tiz the Law was just ready to run and even pulled an outside/inside move around the final turn.
This will be a test for Tiz the Law. A similar attempt at a break for Franco could be met with more resistance. There is more class in this race overall. Tiz the Law was only caught up in traffic once in the Holy Bull when the 5 slid in his way. What happens in a larger field with more bunching? There are questions to answer about the environment, but there are not many questions about the speed and stamina.
8. My First Grammy (50/1) – The 8 draw is a tough one for a trailer like My First Grammy. This is not a pacesetter or a speed horse. This is an opportunistic horse. With pressure from Ete Indien on the inside, the only hope might be the follow Tiz the Law to the front, but the initial burst isn’t going to be good enough. This is the type of horse that could impact the race by getting in the way of a colt like Independence Hall.
9. Independence Hall (9/2) – Hmmm. Another son of Constitution in the Florida Derby. The trip for Joel Rosario could determine a lot here. The extra 1/16 of a mile was problematic in the Sam F. Davis Stakes when Independence Hall pulled up down the final stretch and got passed by Sole Volante. Independence Hall was the 3/5 favorite for Jose Ortiz.
A wide final turn through Independence Hall off-stride a little it and the surging Sole Volante seemed to bother him on the outside. The colt pulled up a little bit and got beaten by more than two lengths. Was it the additional distance? Was it the wide turn? Did it Ortiz hit the gas a few steps too early?
Now the onus is on Joel Rosario. Independence Hall is getting respect for the bloodline and the past results, but 1 1/16 miles was a chore at the end. How will 1 1/8 miles go? Will Rosario know the right time to step on the gas? This horse has tremendous potential, but some question marks, too.
10. Candy Tycoon (20/1) – There are a lot of intriguing developments around Candy Tycoon. Manny Franco, who rode Candy Tycoon in the Fountain of Youth, made an easy call to ride Tiz the Law, the clear favorite in the race. Did John Velazquez get to make a choice between the two Pletcher horses? If he did, he chose Independence Hall. Javier Castellano would have been one hell of a consolation prize, but he is now quarantined.
Candy Tycoon has a puncher’s chance in this race. He is probably a welterweight punching up against some light heavyweights and a couple of legitimate heavyweights, but this is a horse with some gumption. Furthermore, Candy Tycoon has already run 1 1/16 miles three times, so the distance shouldn’t be quite as problematic. Of course, Candy Tycoon was no match for Ete Indien and wound up second in a four-wide photo in the Fountain of Youth. This is a horse that could give a game effort and maybe sneak into trifectas or superfectas depending on the trip, but Pletcher’s other colt is the focal point.
Author update: Luis Saez will ride for Javier Castellano.
11. Sassy But Smart (50/1) – Sassy But Smart is made for some distance, but not made to go up against horses of this caliber. There aren’t a lot of notable connections for this colt and only one stakes race that resulted in a fourth-place finish on Leap Day last month. The Palm Beach Stakes was a Grade 3 race with a field that had minimal upside. This is a different kind of race.
12. Ete Indien (4/1) – Florent Geroux is in the irons once again on Ete Indien, who was dynamic in the Fountain of Youth Stakes last time out, is hoping to do the exact same in this race. It was obvious that some training changes had been made. After coming up short in the final 1/16 to Tiz the Law, Geroux barely had to push the gas for Ete Indien to finish out the Fountain of Youth on a high note.
This is the first race at 1 1/8 miles for Ete Indien, but his third race at 1 1/16 miles went really well. The fact that Ete Indien answered the call as both a pacesetter and then a finisher in the Fountain of Youth is why this race is such an interesting handicap. We know Ete Indien is going to try and shoot out of the 12th post to pace the field. How much does that outside start take out of him early?
That’s what happened in the Fountain of Youth, but Geroux and Ete Indien conserved energy in the backstretch. Will conserving energy work here in the Tiz the Law rematch with other contenders like Independence Hall and Gouverneur Morris that are also content to stalk the pace?
That is the big question here regarding the trip for Geroux. If he doesn’t get the big start and opts to conserve energy, how many horses does Ete Indien need to get past or around before the likely sprint with Tiz the Law?
13. Rogue Element (AE) – The alternate is Rogue Element from Dale Romans and Calumet Farm. This looks like the type of horse that will win a lot of money by beating inferior fields, but won’t have the goods against top horses. This far outside post is a challenge and this pace will be a lot to keep up with. If Rogue Element gets in there, passing some horses late in the race will lead to a better finish, but not a finish on the board.
Tiz the Law will be a factor in this race. Whether you’re betting win/place, exactas, trifectas, daily doubles, whatever else, Tiz the Law should be included in all of them. It has been a decent layoff for Tiz the Law, but he’s got closing speed and is the horse to worry the least about with the extra distance.
Beyond that, Ete Indien is going to deservedly get a lot of run with that Fountain of Youth performance fresh in everybody’s mind. The Gulfstream familiarity and the late charge in the second 1 1/16-mile race on dirt is enough to put Ete Indien in the win/place category as well as the exactas and trifectas.
Win/Place: 7, 12
The trip for Javier Castellano with Gouverneur Morris was a little bit of a head-scratcher. He pushed early on the third turn to get out front and wound up cutting the final turn while Maxfield sprinted outside. When Maxfield cut inside to the rail, it threw Gouverneur Morris out of rhythm, so we don’t know if he would have kept up with Maxfield or not. Do we get a different approach from John Velazquez? We very well could.
I actually prefer Gouverneur Morris to Independence Hall at the extra distance. It’s in GM’s bloodline to run longer and the bad last 1/16 mile for Independence Hall in the Sam F. Davis is something I can’t get out of my head.
Exacta Box: 5/7/12
The Florida Derby is set for a 6:36 p.m. ET post time on Saturday March 28 and will be shown on NBC Sports Network.