A field of 11 will contest the $750,000 Grade 1 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park on Saturday.
This group of 3-year-olds will use this nine-furlong Stake Race as their last chance to accumulate qualifying points for the 2021 Kentucky Derby.
With the highest points available (100-40-20-10) on the Derby Trail, the top two finishers are likely to qualify.
1) NOVA RAGS [ML 12-1] Trainer: Bill Mott. Jockey: Junior Alvarado. After two very good performances at Tampa Bay Downs, a Win in the Pasco Stakes and then a 2nd in the Sam F. Davis (G3), trainer Mott opted to skip the Tampa Bay Derby and go to Gulfstream. The Sam F. Davis earned him four Derby points. He was a rare debut Winner on the dirt as a 2-year-old, which certainly pointed to the talent of this son of UNION RAGS.
2) QUANTUM LEAP [ML 20-1] Trainer: Ian Wilkes. Jockey: Miguel Vasquez. It took him three tries to break his Maiden- by a neck, which he did at Gulfstream in a nine-furlong race on February 20th. He will have to race without Lasix in the Florida Derby. A big leap of faith here by his connections.
3) JIRAFALES [ML 30-1] Trainer: Gustavo Delgado. Jockey: Edgard Zayas. He was a debut Winner of a Florida-bred Maiden Special Weight with a big closing move. Trainer Delgado moved him to the Gulfstream Derby Trail, where he has finished 5th twice. In both of those, he was far behind and the extra distance on Saturday will not make the task any easier. The addition of blinkers last time did not help as he once again he had trouble getting out of the starting gate.
4) SOUTHERN PASSAGE [ML 30-1] Trainer: Dale Romans. Jockey: Corey Lanerie. This colt was last seen running 2nd behind the highly regarded PREVALENCE in an Allowance at Gulfstream earlier this month. The son of Derby Winner SUPER SAVER has only a Maiden Victory to his credit and that came as a 2-year-old in a $50,000 Claimer at Churchill Downs.
5) KNOWN AGENDA [ML 5-1] Trainer: Todd Pletcher. Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr. After a disappointing 5th place finish in the Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa, he rebounded nicely at Gulfstream. He had an attention-getting 11-length Victory in a nine furlong Allowance here, which earned him another shot on the Derby Trail. Pletcher is a five-time Winner of the Florida Derby, with four Winners since 2014, including 2017 Kentucky Derby Winner ALWAYS DREAMING.
6) SIGILOSO [ML 30-1] Trainer: Antonio Sano. Jockey: Luis Reyes. Makes the move from turf to dirt in the Florida Derby. His last two starts produced a 4th and a 5th place finish in Stakes on the grass at Gulfstream. He did debut on the main track and ran a distant 5th in an eight-horse field, broke his Maiden against Florida-breds.
7) GREATEST HONOUR [ML 6-5] Trainer: Shug McGaughey. Jockey: Jose Ortiz. Trainer McGaughey continues to prepare this guy for the Kentucky Derby along the same path that he used with ORB in 2013. He has Won his last three starts at Gulfstream moving from a Maiden Victory to the Holy Bull (G3) and then the Fountain of Youth (G2), which has earned him 60 Derby qualifying points. His last two Wins came after an impressive turn of foot during a closing in the final turn, each time easily handling the competition. However, that running style has not produced flashy speed figures.
8) SOUP AND SANDWICH [ML 20-1] Trainer: Mark Casse. Jockey: John Velazquez. He backed up his seven-length debut Victory in a Florida-bred race at Gulfstream with a two-turn Allowance Win over at Tampa. The son of INTO MISCHIEF returns to Gulfstream where he likes to assert himself in the early going. He will need to take another BIG step forward to contend for the top spot. He certainly is a contender to be part of the exotics.
9) COLLABORATE [ML 6-1] Trainer: Saffie Joseph Jr. Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione. In the second start of his career he romped over a field of 11 at the end of February. Going a one-turn mile at Gulfstream, he Won that Maiden race on the front end and handily opened up to a 12-length advantage at the finish. Connections make an ambitious move to this Grade 1 on the Derby Trail.
10) SPIELBERG [ML 4–1] Trainer: Bob Baffert. Jockey: Javier Castellano. He has earned 17 Derby points with his consistent performances. He has two career Wins, the first in a Maiden at Del Mar and then in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2). He has been a bit of an in and outer with a couple of 4th-place finishes mixed in with three very competitive performances. Last time out he was 2nd to the unbeaten ESSENTIAL QUALITY. He’s not one of Baffert’s top 3-year-olds, but he shouldn’t be ignored in this field.
11) PAPETU [15-1] Trainer: Antonio Sano. Jockey: Emisael Jaramillo. Won his first two career starts at Gulfstream last summer as a 2-year-old, and has raced only in Stakes since then. This year he was 2nd in the Mucho Macho Man, 4th in the Holy Bull, and 3rd in the Fountain of Youth. Those finishes earned him 11 Derby points. The move to 1 1/8 miles shouldn’t hurt him, but he is an unlikely Win candidate.
SUMMARY: As a bettor, attempting to beat GREATEST HONOUR is not an easy task. He is the kind of horse that makes handicappers think he can lose with mild speed figures and a disadvantageous closing style, but he keeps passing each test on the Gulfstream route to the Kentucky Derby. He is going to be very hard to beat if his current form holds up.
COLLABORATE lacks the right seasoning, having just broke his maiden this is a BIG jump in class.
NOVA RAGS, SPEILBERG and PAPETU are not standout talents (yet) and belong in the discussions for bottom slots in exotic wagers.
The Daily Racing Blog feels the logical alternative choice is KNOWN AGENDA, who took a local nine-furlong optional Claiming race last month by 11 lengths.
Again, attempting to beat GREATEST HONOUR as a bettor is not the greatest option, as he keeps on Winning. But with those mild speed figures and a possible poor pace scenario in front of him, 6-5 is a bit low on Value for DRB.
In KNOWN AGENDA, the Florida Derby has a horse who knows how to beat GREATEST HONOUR and owns more early speed, especially with blinkers.
THE PLAY: We’ll try a Trifecta key, with #5 KNOWN AGENDA on top. Underneath him we will use #1 NOVA RAGS, #7 GREATEST HONOUR, #8 SOUP AND SANDWICH, #10 SPIELBERG, and #11 PAPETU.
We will also do a four horse Exacta box using the 1-5-7-10.
Best of luck no matter how you play it.