Gulfstream Park: The GI, $1 million Florida Derby at 1 1/8 miles (Kentucky Derby qualifying points: 100-40-20-10)
#1 Hidden Scroll (5-2): The most polarizing horse in training seems to have as many lovers as he does non-believers after he flew on the lead when he tried two turns in the local GII Fountain of Youth last month but then tired late, while being beaten only three lengths behind the top two that he meets again here. Fans will say that he hard to work hard to clear (over a 132-1 longshot who finished dead last then subsequently came back to win a GIII sprint), then set a ridiculous pace (45.69 for the half-mile), and only tired in deep stretch while being nailed by a trio of well-regraded perfect trippers, while detractors will say he looked like an uncontrollable runaway early, was shortening stride late, and was only that close at the end because they ran to the short finish line in the 1 1/16-miles FOY. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle for this Juddmonte homebred son of Hard Spun, who clearly has a world of talent and was thrown into the fire after a scintillating MSW win in the slop on debut for Mott, who never cranks them early. The problem today is that the pace doesn’t look much slower or kinder to him, since there’s another 132-1-like sprinter entered to his outside, not to mention other speed as well, and while new jock Castellano will likely try to rate, which has apparently happened in the morning, this colt sure didn’t seem like he was willing to settle last time, and remember, we’re going farther today not only in distance, but in the stretch, too, which makes things that much tougher and cloudier; quite comfortable making him deliver on all the hype.
#2 Current (15-1): Stretch-runner from Pletcher bombed in his lone dirt start when seventh in a sloppy renewal of Churchill Downs’ GII Kentucky Jockey Club to end his 2-year-old season in November, and that race hasn’t exactly been a key one this year, so obviously he’s stepping into the deep end of the pool today. Son of Curlin is bred for the main track, though, and his turf runs show there’s talent here, plus the post and pace both figure to be to his liking, as will today’s distance, which several could find out of their scope. You’re also going to get a big price here, on a colt that didn’t really have a fair shake of it in his lone dirt start, and this is a barn that has come alive of late in the Triple Crown preps as well; got a feeling he far outruns his odds.
#3 Harvey Wallbanger (15-1): Fellow closer took advantage of a hot pace to upset the local GII Holy Bull in February and will hope a similar set of circumstances develops today, while he also looks to prove that that 29-1 shocker was no fluke. McPeek passed on the FOY to have a fresh horse for this, and judging by those last three works, everything has gone accordingly to plan for this long-striding son of Congrats, as he’s been all business in the morning. There’s little doubt that the Holy Bull was a funky race, and Everlast, who was second, was beaten a furlong in the FOY, so what this colt delivers today is a bit of a guess, but there’s also no doubt the race flow flatters his style, and he’s another that will be running on when a lot of others will be packing it in; thinking he fires another big shot.
#4 Bourbon War (7-2): Yet another closer, this son of Tapit took the overland route and was closing fastest of all when second in the FOY and figures to relish the added ground and longer stretch as much as anyone in here. Hennig trainee is also the only member of the field to go this far, and while that resulted in just a fourth-place finish in Aqueduct’s GII Remsen to close out his 2yo season, it’s a bit of a feather in his cap here, especially since he’s shown in his two local starts this year that he’s going to be running on at the end. If there’s a worry, it’s that he’ll find himself too far out of it early to get up in time late, but the way he closed last time, coupled with the positive race flow he gets here, says he’s going to be a bear in the lane; mows them all down.
#5 Everfast (20-1): Aforementioned son of Take Charge Indy almost blew up the Holy Bull when second at 128-1 then regressed mightily when eighth in the FOY, after getting a hot pace, too, so you really have to think his run was the fluky one. It’s good to see Romans forge on, if nothing else, and just maybe this dude bounced last time off such a lifetime-best run, but still, this doesn’t seem like the spot to try for a rebound; not seeing it.
#6 Hard Belle (50-1): Ginormous longshot is the potential 132-1 sprinter that could be problematic for ‘Scroll, as he’s drawn to his outside and just made the lead going 46 1/5, so expect him to be sent here, though this son of Hard Spun figures to finish where his Mejia-trained stablemate did in the FOY, which is last of all; easy toss.
#7 Maximum Security (9-2): The wildcard enters off a perfect 3-for-3 record for Jason Servis, while winning those starts by a combined 34 1/2 lengths, and has come a long way since breaking his maiden here in December for a 16k tag. Speedy son of New Year’s Day has never run past seven furlongs or in a stakes, so we’ll find out a lot in a short period of time here, but what we do know is that he’s very fast and capable of sustaining his speed, which only adds to the problems of ‘Scroll down inside, as regardless of where that colt sets up shop early, he’s going to be dueling, pressing, or chasing some serious fractions. It’s tough to put anything past this barn, which wins at an otherworldly rate (32% overall, 45% at the meet), but this seems like the type you need to make prove it before backing at what figures to be an underlaid price; know him early, not sure about late.
#8 Bodexpress (30-1): The lone maiden in the field does enter off a fast second in a 7F sprint here last month for Delgado, while well clear of third, and he’s been close to hot splits early, so while this son of Bodemeister can’t win, he’s yet another that could make things difficult for anyone that wants to be involved up front; pace player, no more.
#9 Code of Honor (3-1): Surprise FOY winner got all the best of it that day, as he got first run on ‘War, saved all the ground, got through unscathed on the inside, then held on late while finally rewarding his backers who kept the faith after a dismal fourth at odds-on in the local Mucho Macho Man to kick off his 3-year-old campaign. Son of Noble Mission seemingly hasn’t lost anything since that win, as he’s worked huge for McGaughey, and you know he’s another that will love the pace, while showing last time that the distance will be no problem, either. If there’s a rub, it’s a wide draw with a quick run to the first turn, and the fact that he could regress off such a big win, and if you didn’t go to the wedding at 9-1, you don’t want to attend the funeral at 3-1, but nothing he’s done since suggests that he’s going to back up here; rock solid.
#10 Union’s Destiny (30-1): Son of Union Rags took all the worst of it in the FOY, when he drew widest of all in the 11-hole, broke slow, then rallied only mildly late to be sixth. Avila trainee was making his two-turn debut that day, and, all things considered, he didn’t run poorly while being further back than usual, but he drew ever worse here, so he’s up against it again; midpack finish seems his ceiling.
#11 Garter and Tie (15-1): Florida-bred basically ran in place when sixth in the Holy Bull for Gold and will have to negotiate a terrible draw here, though with the blinkers coming off, he may be able to settle and avoid losing too much ground into the first turn. Take note he did beat ‘Honor when third in the Mucho Macho Man, and he’s another that will like the race flow, but it’s tough to see him making much of a dent against a group like this; can’t endorse.
#4 Bourbon War
#9 Code of Honor
#3 Harvey Wallbanger