The Trail To The Grail continues this weekend at Gulfstream Park, as the annual Florida Derby takes place on Saturday. It is a Grade 1 Stakes race with a one million dollar purse and 100 Kentucky Derby points to the winner. A win here will punch the ticket to the starting gate for May 5th. A comparatively short field of nine horses will take to the track for the 14th and final race of a long card at Gulfstream Park. This is interesting; Over the last ten years, four winners of the Florida Derby have gone on to win ‘The Run For The Roses.’ Beginning in 2008 with BIG BROWN, in 2013 it was ORB, followed in 2016 by NYQUIST, and just last year with ALWAYS DREAMING. Now this might mean something or it might mean nothing at all, but it is certainly worth noting. Especially on the first Saturday in May.
This week I am going to dispense with giving you my top 5 horses. In a short field it’s not all that tasking to eliminate four also-rans. There are the usual suspects of hot trainers and jockeys to contend with here, but they will not offer any….VALUE. So with that said I’ll give you three value plays, at least by their collective morning lines:
# 7 HOFBURG. A surprise entrant to be sure. He has had only 2 career starts and just broke his maiden last time out on March 3 at this track. Trainer Bill Mott didn’t get into the Racing Hall Of Fame by not recognizing talent. So him bringing this horse back after 4 weeks rest speaks to the idea he might have a good one here. Jockey Jose Ortiz is back aboard this horse, which says something. My guess is Jose could have had other mounts in this race but chose to stay on the lightly raced HOFBURG. Worth a look and a wager at 20-1.
# 5 STORM RUNNER. Trained by Dale Romans and ridden by popular and successful local (Florida) jockey Tyler Gaffalione. This horse shows a lot of promise, and possesses the speed necessary to get to the wire first here. He had a bad trip his last time out, so I’ll ignore that effort. He has been beaten by two other contenders here- STRIKE POWER and PROMISES FULFILLED. He has also beaten my next choice- MISSISSIPPI. Given his latent speed, his fondness for the track, and a rider who knows the course, I’ll take a flier on him. At 20-1 he’ll get one more chance from me.
# 9 MISSISSIPPI. This horse was bought at auction for $700,000, making him the most expensive talent in this years Florida Derby. Meaning his connections believed he was going to be something special. This is his first foray into Graded Stakes company. He hasn’t raced since February 4th, when on this track he was second by a neck to STORM RUNNER. His speed figures indicate he can compete here and his pedigree suggests the distance will not be an issue. Trainer Mark Casse has admirable jockey Julian (Frenchy) Leparoux in the irons. Don’t dismiss at 12-1.
I don’t think I’ll dabble too deep on this race. I’ll do an exacta box with my 3 choices here. Which would be a hefty pay day, and bet each of the three to Win and Place. If any of the short-priced favorites beat me, so be it. Best of Luck.