Derby Prep

The 2019 Kentucky Derby Trail gets serious Saturday with major contenders meeting at Gulfstream Park in the Fountain of Youth Stakes.  The mile and a sixteenth race (G2) carries with it a $400,000 purse and Derby Qualifying points on a 50-20-10-5 scale to the Top 4 finishers.

Going back to ORB in 2013, every Fountain of Youth Winner has gone on to run the first Saturday in May.

This contest is the 13th race on a card of 14 with a scheduled Post Time of 5:32 p.m. Eastern Time.  Here’s a Daily Racing Blog look at the field of 11 with the official morning line:

 CODE OF HONOR  (ML 6-1)  TrainerShug McGaughey  Jockey: John Velazquez  Shug put four breezes into this fella since his disappointing performance in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes.  That race hasn’t produced others having an impact on the Derby Trail, so it’s unsure what to expect here as he faces a deep group of prospects.  We’d like to see him show some speed and get engaged in the race early on. 

EPIC DREAMER  (ML 20-1)  Trainer: Kelly Breen  Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione   Deserves this additional chance on the Derby Trail after a tough trip in the Springboard Mile, then came back to set blazing fractions, only to fade in the Holy Bull (G2).  That strategy was out of character for jockey Irad Ortiz Jr.  He did Win his Maiden Race on the lead, but set more manageable fractions in doing so.  Will have to be rated to some degree if he is going to have any chance here. 

 GLADIATOR KING  (ML 50-1)  Trainer:  Jaime Mejia  Jockey: Jorge Solorzano   Most experienced horse in the field, has run 10 times with a Stakes Win at Tampa Bay Downs in the slop back in December.  After going off at 202-1 while finishing ninth, beaten by 28 lengths in the Holy Bull, he dropped down in Class just last weekend and lost on the turf, too. Enough said? 

 BOURBON WAR  (ML 10-1)  Trainer: Mark Hennig  Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr.  This colt has a Maiden Victory and an Allowance Win sandwiched around running a distant fourth the Remsen Stakes finishing behind three good horses.  He is a son of TAPIT, and those sires have done well on the Derby Trail, while never having ever won the KD. Clearly, he has talent, but needs to progress in order to win in a quality field like this one. 

VEKOMA   (ML 7-2)  Trainer: George Weaver  Jockey: Manny Franco  Won his only race in New York in impressive fashion.  He hasn’t run since taking the Nashua Stakes (G3) back in November and thus he now flies under the KD contender radar.  His connections are bullish on his talent, and although he did beat some good horses in the Nashua, he now goes two turns for the first time against a top-notch field off a long layoff. 

 SIGNALMAN  (ML 9-2)  Trainer: Ken McPeek  Jockey: Brian Hernandez Jr.  At the end of 2018, he was near the top of most experts’ KD lists after he ran a strong third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and followed that with a victory in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2), both at Churchill Downs.  He has hit the board in all five career starts. 

 HIDDEN SCROLL  (ML 9-5)  Trainer: Bill Mott  Jockey: Joel Rosario  This son of HARD SPUN burst onto the Derby Trail with an impressive 14-length debut victory in January on a sloppy Gulfstream track going a mile.  He earned a 104 Beyer Speed Figure, pointing to the quality of his performance.   He now has to perform on a dry track while stepping up to face Graded Stakes winners. 

 GLOBAL CAMPAIGN  (ML 10-1)  Trainer: Stan Hough  Jockey: Luis Saez  This son of CURLIN did not run as a 2-year-old, breaking his Maiden at the beginning of January at this track.   He returned in February following a minor foot issue to Win again at Gulfstream Park, running the same distance as the FOY.  He has talent and the pedigree to run all day long. His running style is well-suited to this racetrack.

EVERFAST  (ML 20-1)  Trainer: Dale Romans  Jockey: Chris Landeros  He finished second in the Holy Bull Stakes at odds of 128-1.  He got an ideal setup in that race, where the pace-setters backed out of it nearing the wire.  But the quality of the field improves significantly as the importance of the Derby Preps increases. 

 FROSTED GRACE  (ML 30-1)  Trainer: Katherine Ritvo  Jockey: Jonathan Gonzalez  This Florida-based runner broke his Maiden in October at Gulfstream Park West going seven-furlongs and since then he was 2nd by a neck in a one-mile Allowance Race. When he stepped up to Stakes company in the Swale (G3) around one turn, he could not keep up.  He now faces added distance and quality of competition. 

 UNION’S DESTINY  (ML 30-1)  Trainer: Juan Carlos Avila  Jockey: Leonel Reyes  The son of UNION RAGS has made all three of his starts at Gulfstream Park.  He broke his Maiden in August and then in December he was third in the Smooth Air Stakes.  He returns to the races in a tough spot, but has a good Power Rating and has never finished out of the money.

This is a great race to wager on, as DRB believes there are probably 3-4 horses who don’t belong here, while the others are on equal footing.  #7 HIDDEN SCROLL is a worthy favorite, but we think we can do better than the 9-5 Morning Line.  Our top selection will be #5 VEKOMA, who right now stands at 7-2 Morning Line- a very honest price.  For our Live Long-Shot we will play #11 UNION’S DESTINY.

So our play will be; a Trifecta Key, using the #5 on top with the #7-11-1-6-4 underneath.  Also a three horse Exacta Box with the #5-7-11, and Win and Place bets on the #11.  Best of luck no matter how you play it, but in a field such as this, you should be looking for Value.


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