He’s back! Brian Nadeau rejoins Brooklyn Backstretch for the Derby trail, offering insights and race analysis for selected preps on the way to Churchill Downs. This is Brian’s fourth year contributing to BB, and I’m grateful every year when he says that he’s willing to do it again. You can find more of Brian’s handicapping at Horseplayernow.com.
Gulfstream Park: The GIII, $400,000 Holy Bull at 1 mile
#1 Silver Max: Turf runner tries the main for the first time since a solid second in the mud at this trip at Belmont, and he does enter off a breakthrough maiden win in his last. Brings a lot of speed to the fray but unless they gun, it’s unlikely he’s fast enough to clear, which means he’s up against it from this tricky draw while tackling a bunch of dirt horses at their own game; tough to like his chances.
#2 Consortium: Darley homebred has a beautiful pedigree that suggests he’ll only get better as the furlongs add up, and he’s already shown plenty of promise in his two sprints starts. Likely needed his last when he was a fine second to rival Algorithms, and he seems versatile enough to be placed wherever needed, which will come in handy in a race where the early pace could be hot. Catches champion Hansen off the layoff and gives every indication he’s poised to break through; call to turn the tables and post the mild surprise.
#3 My Adonis: Looked good winning the prep for the Delta Jackpot, but then stepped up in that aforementioned GIII and they needed a search party to find him. Breen has regrouped since and this son of BC Classic winner Pleasantly Perfect has been training bullets at Palm Meadows, but you get the feeling he was exposed last time and this certainly is a much, much tougher field; not seeing it, especially off a nine-week layoff.
#4 Hansen: Reigning 2yo champion and BC Juvenile hero is undefeated in three starts and showed his toughness with a game and determined score over pro-tem leader Union Rags at Churchill Downs in his dirt debut. Son of Tapit returns early in his 3yo season and at one turn, which could be tricky, as could the pace as he’s never sat behind a horse but will find plenty of other speed today. Point being, with much, much bigger goals down the road and the potential for a new set of circumstances being thrown at him, do you really want to take odds-on in a spot like this? Respect his talent a ton, but trying to beat him today; underlaid favorite in this spot.
#5 Fort Loudon: Florida-bred wasn’t disgraced when beaten 9 lengths in the Juvenile, but it wasn’t like he was ever a threat, either, so he’s got to step up to meet this challenge off the layoff today. The good news is that he drew well and has a nice stalking style, so if Hansen isn’t ready and Consortium and Algorithms can’t handle the added ground, then maybe you have something, but that seems like an awful lot of “ifs”; likely needs softer to factor.
#6 Algorithms: Made it 2-for-2 with a smart score over Consortium earlier in the meet and he’s by Bernardini out of a Cryptoclearance mare, so you know this added ground won’t be the issue. Pletcher runner drew the best of all and his tactical speed will allow Castellano to gauge the early pace and act accordingly, which puts him in a pretty enviable position when they come off the far turn. Looks like the sky’s the limit for this colt and he seemingly gets all the best of it today; looms the one to beat.