Brian Nadeau’s Road to the Triple Crown: The Florida Derby

Gulfstream Park: The GI, $750,000 Florida Derby at 1 1/8 miles (Kentucky Derby qualifying points: 100-40-20-10)

by Brian Nadeau

Brian handicaps at Capital OTB and Horseplayer Now, and he’ll offer analysis and selections of Derby points races, hoping to make us all a little money as we head to the Belmont Stakes. Follow him on Twitter here.

Tiz the Law and Manny Franco. Coglianese/Elsa Lorieul photo

#1 As Seen On TV (12-1): State-bred stakes winner got exposed a bit in the local GII prep, last month’s Fountain of Youth, when he was a well-beaten third behind today’s fellow rival Ete Indien’s tour de force, in what was his two-turn debut as well. The post works for this son of Lookin At Lucky, and Breen doesn’t win at over 20% by running them where they don’t belong, but this seems like a real reach; tough to endorse.

#2 Shivaree (30-1): One of several big longshots entered is two-time local sprint stakes winner but bombed in his only two-turn start, which came against state-breds, so while you have to respect Nicks, this son of Awesome of Course is in way over his head; easy toss.

#3 Disc Jockey (20-1): Lightly-raced runner has been a new horse off the Joseph claim (shocking, I know), as he aired in a local SOC and then was a fast second here to American Fabulous last month, though that was nothing more than a claiming crown stakes. Son of Bodemeister stretches out to two turns and figures to be close early, though it’s tough to think he’s around late; potential pace player, no more.

#4 Soros (30-1): Fellow big longshot broke his maiden in the local Smooth Air way back in November, which is never easy, and he did it for fun, too, though the race was extremely slow on figures, so while Delgado is having a big meet, this son of Commissioner is far too outgunned to add to it; needs much softer to threaten.

#5 Gouverneur Morris (8-1): The first of a few potential upsetters was workmanlike in his 3-year-old bow for Pletcher, as he beat the talented Untitled (who returned to run second in the GIII Gotham at Aqueduct) in a two-turn AOC at Tampa Bay Downs last month. The first of three Constitution colts entered improved on his 2yo figures in that seasonal debut, which is always a very positive sign, and he’s also eligible to sit the right kind of stalking trip just off the speed, which looks plentiful here. Fans will also get a potent Triple Crown prep barn at a decent price, too, and there’s upside galore here, plus he showed when second in Keeneland’s GI Breeders’ Futurity to end his freshman season that he’s got some class, so if you think the heavy chalk has some question marks at this longer trip, and the speed won’t see it out, either, then this guy has every right to give them a scare; price players have their hero.

#6 Ajaaweed (20-1): Price player had built a pretty big following last year off the Belmont Park MSW win, then couldn’t back it up when a distant fourth behind ‘Gouverneur in the Breeders’ Futurity, though his second in Aqueduct’s GII Remsen at this trip to end his season was strong. The problem is that this homebred son of Curlin was a distant third for McLaughlin in his seasonal debut in Tampa’s GIII Sam F. Davis last month, so sure, he can improve on that, but even if he does, it’s still not like he’s one of the ones in here; minor award may be his ceiling.    SCRATCHED

#7 Tiz the Law (6-5): Aforementioned heavy chalk aired in his seasonal debut—in very fast time—in the local GIII Holy Bull to kick off February and is universally considered a top-3 Derby contender at this point, which means that he’s going to take all the beating in a field that isn’t brimming with this type of quality. The second of the Constitutions has the perfect running style, too, as he can sit just off the speed, which will get him first run off the far turn, and the fact that he’s proven over the track going two turns only adds to his appeal for Tagg and the Sackatoga boys, who know how to navigate the Triple Crown season with a bigtime horse. Yes, he stretches out, and he won’t run to the first finish line this time, either, and this is a tougher group than the one he just beat, but the positives far outweigh any negatives, which seem minimal at best; looks too tough for these.

#8 My First Grammy (50-1): Son of Curlin starts as the lone maiden entered (in the main body of the field) for Sanchez, and while he has zero chance to make a dent late, the speed he’s shown in a pair of 1-mile MSWs here at the meet could have an impact on the race flow, and affect the favorite, too; two thumbs down.

#9 Independence Hall (9-2): The trickiest of reads took the racing world by storm when he won Aqueduct’s one-turn GIII Nashua by the length of the stretch to end his 2yo season, then beat no one in slow time in their Jerome at the same trip to kick off the New Year, before getting surprised at odds-on when second in the Davis, in what was his two-turn debut. The third Constitution here didn’t exactly take to the trip last time, either, as he came up wanting late behind a sharp closing winner, so while it’s a positive sign that Trombetta forges on to this much tougher spot, and he should be in striking range off the far turn, the gut say that the Nashua was the exception to the rule, and that this distance will be a bridge too far as well; making him prove it.

#10 Candy Tycoon (20-1): The second of the Pletchers was rumored to be the fastest horse on the grounds at Saratoga last year, and while it took him a while to figure this game out, he’s quietly come to hand in his last two, which coincided with a stretch to two turns and culminated with a distant second in the FOY. It’s also noteworthy that this son of Twirling Candy got sawed off on the inside entering the first turn last time and didn’t take up his customary spot on the lead, yet still made a middle-move from eighth and ended up passing several to salvage the place. And that experience should only help today, and the circumstances for ‘Indian appear a lot different this time around, too, which means he may turn the tables, at least on that rival; expecting another big run.

#11 Sassy But Smart (50-1): Florida-bred turf runner has really improved since stretching to two turns on the grass in his last two, and as a son of Overdriven, he’s bred for this, but his lone dirt start against fellow Sunshine breds was an extremely slow third for Condie, which won’t cut it here; needs the green stuff.

#12 Ete Indien (4-1): The best of the speeds absolutely ran a hole in the wind when he ran off with the FOY, which followed up on a coming-out-party kind of second to ‘Law in the Holy Bull, so there’s no doubt that this son of Summer Front has some real quality to him. Biancone has enjoyed a revitalization of sorts on the Triple Crown Trail this winter, too, as his Sole Volante ran down ‘Hall at Tampa, so the barn can do no wrong now and clearly starts as the one to catch today. There are some serious caveats today, though, as this wide draw gives him no margin for error, nothing will be free on the engine, he stretches out again, and, as important as anything, they run to the true finish line today, which means the race starts off the far turn, as opposed practically ending off it like it did in the FOY; thinking he comes unglued late.

#13 Rogue Element (50-1): Honor Code colt is the second maiden entered and will need a scratch to start for Romans, which is a good thing, because even though he woke way up and just missed last time, he’s in way over his head here; no chance. 


#7 Tiz the Law

#5 Gouverneur Morris

#10 Candy Tycoon

#12 Ete Indien


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