Florida Derby (G1)
1-1/8 Year Olds $750,000
1-1/8 Year Olds $750,000
The Grade I Florida Derby drew a field of nine including Dunkirk the latest "buzz" horse of the prep season. And why shouldn't he be? He's a good looking son of Unbridled’s Song out of the A.P. Indy mare Secret Status. She won the Kentucky Oaks (G1), The Mother Goose (G1) and the Florida Oaks (G3). He brought $3,700,000 at auction. And if that’s not enough he's also trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by Garrett Gomez. What's not to like? That's akin to being born to royalty. However, 9-5 in a Grade I on a colt that’s had only two starts is anything but value. Granted they were both impressive wins, but this field will be much tougher than those he faced on the lower rungs of the ladder. He may have the pedigree to run forever, the team and the looks but he has yet to face adversity. He may win, maybe by a lot but at 9-5 I have to look elsewhere.
Unfortunately, Quality Road, the horse I like to win doesn't offer much value either. However, I do believe his morning line odds of 2-1 will drift up because Dunkirk will be being over bet. I'm hoping for 3-1 but would be happy with 5-2. Jimmy Jerkens has this colt ready. His strong winning performance in the FOY speaks for him liking the track. Since then he has worked twice, a 4f maintenance work on 3/3 and a fast 7f move in 1:25 on 3/21. I would rather have seen that work be a bit slower, however, it does show he is ready for the distance and it may help him relax a little more in this race than he has in the past. If Europe stays in he's going to have to relax if he hopes to cross the wire first. I think he will and I think John Velazquez will ride him to perfection. Having Toby the Coal Man on his inside should help as he should have room at the break to attain ground saving position as the field sorts itself out.
I'm also leaving Dunkirk out of my exacta. I’m going with Sincero in that position. I like how this colt looks in the PP's. He won, but was DQ'd first out at Calder going 6-1/2f. He came back in the $400k restricted In Reality S. (1-1/16) and ran a good 4th after steadying at the start. In his next and last '08 appearance he broke his maiden at 1 mi 70. Those performances show some real talent. Since embarking on the new season he has run three times. He has not enjoyed good racing luck. In his first race back on 1/8 his comment line reads “Slow st; bmpd 1st turn. That also happened to be the race that made a temporary star out of Free Country. Sincero finished 5th of 8 but only 6 1/2 back.
The comment in his next race on 1/31 reads, "Bumped st, faltered." He finished 9 back of Take the Points, another pretty nice horse. Still he had an excuse. In his most recent race he finished 3rd by 6-1/2. The comment line says he ran wide. But that’s not an excuse. I think there were two more pertinent reasons why he lost that race. He ran into a very good horse in Dunkirk and he didn’t work between races. Manuel Azpurua has remedied that situation for this race. Sincero shows two works in preparation for this race, a 4f work on 3/7 and a bullet 5f work on 3/21 at Calder in 1:00 1H. I think this colt has the talent and finally has all the tumblers aligned. If Quality Road does too much early I can see this colt taking the big prize.
To round out my trifecta I used the horse of the moment and maybe the future, Dunkirk. There's no question he has talent but at this level it generally requires experience as well. He’ll get a lot of that here but he won’t get my money to win or place.
Win: Quality Road