Brian’s Derby Preps: The Florida Derby

Brian Nadeau is back this year to offer insight and analysis on this year’s road to the Kentucky Derby. A handicapper at Horseplayer Now and Capital OTB, he’ll analyze every official Derby points race and the three Triple Crown races, back at Brooklyn Backstretch for the sixth year.

Gulfstream Park: The $1 million Florida Derby at 1 1/8 miles (Kentucky Derby qualifying points: 100-40-20-10)

#1 State of Honor (8-1): Casse speedster has run well without really threatening behind a few nice ones in a pair of graded stakes at Tampa Bay Downs and figures as the inside speed with this draw, though there’s enough pace to his outside to think wiring will be a tough task. Son of To Honor and Serve is in the mix underneath on figures, and this is a track that can carry his type on big race days, but this is also a barn riding a long 0-for-35 streak in 3-year-old graded stakes races on the dirt since 2014, which is becoming a mighty big elephant in the room; underneath only.

#2 Talk Logistics (30-1): Longshot has tried several of these this winter without making an impact, though Plesa will forge on with this son of High Cotton, even though he’s lost ground late in both local two-turn starts. Of course, he’s also been fourth in both, the GII Holy Bull and last time to today’s heavy favorite Gunnevera in the GII Fountain of Youth, and that’s not a bad check to bring back home, and that spot seems about his ceiling in this one, too; minor award, if at all.

#3 Charlie the Greek (50-1): Potential triple-digit bomber followed fellow rival Always Dreaming around the track to be second in a painfully slow optional-claimer here last month, then didn’t do much running when fourth in a similar condition a week ago, so it’s a big shock he’s even in here. Son of Adios Charlie has never run a race remotely close to factor in here, let alone hit the board, so it’s obvious Yanakov just wants to be part of the big party; easy toss.

#4 Always Dreaming (4-1): Aforementioned Pletcher colt is likely the only starter for this barn (he’s also got Battalion Runner, who will run only if something goes awry with this colt) and will have to improve upwards of a dozen lengths off that local win, as it was recorded in plow-horse time after this son of Bodemeister jogged on the lead. If he’s for you, then you’re pointing to the untapped potential and the fact he ran fast winning his comeback over maidens at Tampa, and we all know what this barn can do here, but ask yourself: if he were a true Derby contender, would he have gotten his year started with the B-string on the other coast? Quite comfortable making him prove it.

#5 Quinientos (50-1): The second of the potential 100-1 shots was a well-beaten sixth in the Fountain of Youth, and it doesn’t help that the race flow that day really helped his closing style, too, which means his run was that much meeker. Son of Sky Mesa tries again for Sanchez, but you get the impression the racing office beat down his door to run, or he too was looking for the free shrimp cocktail at the Derby party Friday night; get home safely.

#6 Coleman Rocky (30-1): Big bomber goes for a Delgado barn that ran second with longshot Majesto in this race last year, and José Ortiz is here too, so you’re probably not getting the price you should on a colt who has never won on the dirt. He’s also never run on a fast track going two turns, as that slow third in an optional-claimer here in January was in the slop, but still, even on dry land, it’s tough to see this son of Harlan’s Holiday improving enough to get any sort of piece here; not seeing it.

#7 Unbridled Holiday (50-1): Yet another potential triple-digit starter adds blinkers after running third, some four lengths behind ‘Dreaming, in the slow AOC here in March and will need to move forward about 20 lengths or get a head start to threaten. Harlan’s Holiday colt has a maiden win against Florida-breds to highlight his resume for Biancone, and, as weak as the overall quality of this field is, that’s not scaring anyone in here; next.

#8 Impressive Edge (12-1): Romans charge aired over a bad field sprinting in an optional-claimer here last month and tries two turns for the first time today, but as yet another son of Harlan’s Holiday, he’s certainly bred to handle the trip. He’s also the type that should relish the pace, which looks like it’s going to be honest, if not sizzling, and it’s also worth noting this barn could have started J Boys Echo, who would have been the second-choice in here, so it’s a sign of confidence they’re willing to stand alone with this dude, and at a nice price, there’s no reason he can’t spice things up in the exotics; expecting him to fire a big shot.

#9 Battalion Runner (3-1): Expected to scratch.

#10 Three Rules (8-1): Speedster got no help from this draw and will need to be sent early, though without a lot of immediate zip to his inside he should be able to be vying for the lead by the time they finish the quick run into the first turn. Talented son of Gone Astray won the battle but lost the war when third in the Fountain of Youth for Pinchin, as he was the only one to be involved in the hot pace early to stick around late, but he’s still got six lengths to make up on the boss next door and has never won a graded stakes either, so in a race that will have some hitting up front, it’s unlikely today is the day; logical underneath.

Gunnevera and Javier Castellano in the Fountain of Youth. Gulfstream Park photo

#11 Gunnevera (9-5): The deserving heavy chalk simply inhaled the field in the Fountain of Youth and won going away in an effort that stamped him as one of the ones this year, especially since he’s got a stretch-running style that always garners attention in the Kentucky Derby. Dad Dialed In won this race a few years back with a similar deep-closing style, and the pace figures to once again flatter this colt, who has done nothing wrong here all winter for Sano and simply looks far, far too good against a field that is one of the weaker ones we’ve seen in this historic race in many a year; imposing.





#11 Gunnevera

#8 Impressive Edge

#10 Three Rules

#1 State of Honor

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