Florida Derby Picks

Who’s next?  The Winner of Saturday’s Grade 1, Million Dollar Florida Derby will be guaranteed a spot in the gate at Churchill Downs on May 4th.  Up for grabs are Derby Qualifying Points distributed on a 100-40-20-10 scale to the Top 4 finishers.

The Mile & 1/8 Race is the 14th, and final race on the card.  It has a scheduled Post Time of 6:30 pm Eastern Time.  Here is a look at the field with the official morning line:

HIDDEN SCROLL  [ML 5-2]  Trainer: Bill Mott.  Jockey: Javier Castellano. This guy had a 14-length Victory in his debut.  He then ran a disappointing 4th as the favorite in the Fountain of Youth (G2) in which the hot pace led to much chatter about the ride by Joel Rosario.  Castellano gets the mount in the Florida Derby, but the new rider won’t make a difference if HIDDEN SCROLL isn’t ready to relax in the early going.

 CURRENT  [ML 15-1]  Trainer: Todd Pletcher.  Jockey: Manuel Franco.  With the Pletcher barn heating up on the Derby Trail, the connections here have decided to try racing on the dirt again.  He has made four of five career starts on the grass, including a win in the Bourbon Stakes (G3) at Keeneland last year.  His only start on the dirt came on a sloppy Churchill Downs track in the Kentucky Jockey Cup (G2) in November.  He has a closing running style, which fits well given all the speed in here, but the competition is formidable.

HARVEY WALLBANGER  [ML 15-1]  Trainer: Ken McPeek.  Jockey: Brian Hernandez Jr.  He had once-in-a-lifetime pace setup in his long-shot Victory in the Holy Bull Stakes (G2).  He has never run a bad race.  His career began with three straight Place finishes and then broke his Maiden in his 2018 finale.  This year, it is one start and one Win.  But he needed every bit of the setup last time out, and there are better late runners in this Grade 1 field. 

BOURBON WAR  [ML 7-2]  Trainer: Mark Hennig.  Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr.  Finished 2nd in the Fountain of Youth, as he benefited from the brutal hot pace up front, which set up his big closing move.  The impeccably bred colt made a huge late run and galloped out well after going the short stretch.  He was farther behind in that race than in any other start, likely due to the speedy fractions set by HIDDEN SCROLL.  Ortiz needs to keep an eye on the pace and CODE OF HONOR if he wants to stay within striking range.

 EVERFAST  [ML 20-1]  Trainer: Dale Romans.  Jockey: Chris Landeros.  He was one of two big long-shots to connect in the Holy Bull Stakes, finishing 2nd at odds of 128-1.  He came back in the Fountain of Youth Stakes at half that price but never lifted a foot while running eighth.  Seems he will again try and make a late run in a field that has much better closers.

HARD BELLE  [ML 50-1]  Trainer: Jaime Mejia.  Jockey: Jose Batista.  Lone Victory came in his debut in a $50,000 Maiden Claiming race back in October.  Since then he has run 12 more times at Gulfstream Park and Gulfstream West.  Two tries in Graded Stakes company resulted in distant eighth-place finishes.

MAXIMUM SECURITY  [ML 9-2]  Trainer: Jason Servis.  Jockey: Luis Saez.  He is undefeated in three career starts, all of which were run at Gulfstream Park.  The numbers to know are 18, 6, and 9, the respective margins of victory at distances from six to seven furlongs.  He will be stretching in distance, and should be a pace factor while making  a big jump up in class. 

BODEXPRESS  [ML 30-1]  Trainer: Gustavo Delgado.  Jockey: Nik Juarez.  Still a Maiden, this son of BODEMEISTER ran his best speed number while finishing 2nd by a neck sprinting at Gulfstream Park in February.

CODE OF HONOR  [ML 3-1]  Trainer: Shug McGaughey.  Jockey: John Velazquez.  As other Favorites have failed in recent Derby Preps, this guys stock is rising in the KD rankings.  He had a nice Win over a strong field in the Fountain of Youth Stakes. McGaughey won the FOY and the Florida Derby in 2013 and then went on to Victory  the first Saturday in May with ORB.  Hall of Fame rider Johnny V. will be in the saddle and he has won this race four of the last six years.

UNION’S DESTINY  [ML 30-1]  Trainer: Juan Carols Avila.  Jockey: Leonal Reyes.  Here is another Gulfstream Park based runner who would have to make significant strides to be a contender with this big step up in class.  He has just a Maiden Victory and most recently was out-classed in the Fountain of Youth Stakes after trying to rally from the back of the pack.

GARTER AND TIE  [ML 15-1]  Trainer: Ralph Nicks.  Jockey: Jeffery Sanchez.  This Florida-bred has made eight starts in his career with two Stakes Wins.  His first career Win came in a State-Bred Stakes Race in his fourth start.  He added a Victory in the Smooth Air Stakes at Gulfstream Park, the site of all of his races. Last time out  ran 6th in the Holy Bull.

Summary:  The main contenders (likely to be the top betting choices) seem to be the trio from the Fountain of Youth#9 CODE OF HONOR, #4 BOURBON WAR and #1 HIDDEN SCROLL.  If you include (as DRB will) the newcomer #7 MAXIMUM SECURITY, then the Florida Derby appears to be a contest that is more dependent on pace than many big races.

CODE OF HONOR and BOURBON WAR will both make a late run in the race, trying to catch and go by the front-runners, but the Million Dollar question is, will there be a collapse up front?

Unbeaten MAXIMUM SECURITY will probably go to the lead and try and take the field gate to wire.  Has HIDDEN SCROLL learned to harness his speed since going out ‘guns-a-blazing’ in the Fountain of Youth just 4 weeks ago?  Will he be able to get the distance in what is only his third career start?

Now that the the Daily Racing Blog has sufficiently fogged up the crystal ball, our wager, seemingly, should be a four horse Trifecta Box using the #1-4-7-9.  But where is the Value in that?

So we will take a flyer with the #2 CURRENT.  The last time he tried the dirt it was a Sloppy Track at Churchill Downs, so he should relish the dry, fast surface of Gulfstream Park.  He also had a Bullet workout on March 22nd.  It is hard to ignore any Todd Pletcher horse in this race as he has Won it four out of the last five years.  So in addition to the aforementioned Trifecta Box, we will also do a Trifecta Key with the #2 on top of the #1-4-7-9.  Along with an Exacta Box using #2-4-7, and Win Bets on those three as well.

Best of luck no matter how you play it.


3 thoughts on “Florida Derby Picks

  1. I think you might be a little too dismissive of the #3. He’s been top 2 in all five of his races, has the fastest 1 1/16 in the field, and also had a bullet work on 3/19. I’m afraid 1 & 7 will lock into a speed duel and burn each other up. I’m going with the bartenders exacta, Harvey Wallbanger and Bourbon War (liked him in the FOY). Then mixing in your #2 and #9 for the triple.
    Ordinarily I wouldn’t consider the 2 because of his turf background but you’ve been hot so I’m tossing him in.
    Good luck!!


    1. Normally, I too would not venture with a Turf to Dirt, back to Turf, to try Dirt again…but CATHOLIC BOY in last years Travers Stakes changed my point of view on that. I will use the #3 underneath, in case he gets up for a piece. Good luck to you Ev.


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