2018 Florida Derby Preview – A Todd Pletcher Repeat?


March 29th 2018 – Updated March 31st 5:25 PM CST

Another huge weekend on the Derby trail is coming up this Saturday with the Florida Derby. Three of the last five Florida Derby winners went on to win the Kentucky Derby. I will admit up front that I am a bit disappointed with the quality of this year’s field. I think a race of this stature and a purse of $1 Million dollars should have attracted another heavy hitter or two other on the Derby trail other than Aubible and Promises Fulfilled.

However, slap me silly, remember that the Todd Pletcher-trained Always Dreaming was the surprise winner last year having never won a Graded Stakes race entering that race. And Always Dreaming went on to win the Kentucky Derby. So this race deserves your attention.

Below are the entries, post-positions, jockey assignments and morning line odds for the 105th Louisiana Derby. The race will be televised live by NBC Sports Network.

The Florida Derby

The Florida Derby – 1 1/8th Mile – Race #14 at Gulfstream Park – Post-Time: Saturday March 31st at 5:30 PM CST. Televised by NBCSN 

1. Strike Power (122) – Saez/Hennig – 4/1
2. Millionaire Runner (122) – Batista/Mejia – 50/1
3. Tip Sheet (122) – Zayas/Gold – 30/1
4. Promises Fulfilled (122) – Albarado/Romans – 3/1
5. Storm Runner (122) – Gaffalione/Romans – 20/1
6. Catholic Boy (122) – I.Ortiz Jr/Thomas – 7/2
7. Hofburg (122) – J. Ortiz/Mott – 20/1
8. Audible (122) – Velazquez/Pletcher – 9/5
9. Mississippi (116) – Leparoux/Casse – 12/1

Race Commentary:  This race should come down to Aubible, Promises Fulfilled and Catholic Boy for the win. I ranked the Todd Pletcher trainee Audible in my Top 3 Kentucky Derby Contenders awhile back behind Bolt d’Oro and McKinzie. Will trainer Todd Pletcher be a repeat winner of the Florida Derby?

Nothing I have seen in my research for this races changes my mind about Audible. So he will be my favorite for this year’s Florida Derby so long as it is a dry race. Audible has been training well and ran an impressive time of 1:41.92 in the 8 1/2 furlong Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park back on February 3rd. 

UPDATE: There no scratches and no chance of rain. The betting public right now likes Aubible and Catholic Boy and is cold on Promises Fulfilled. I still like big straight win bets on Audible.

On the Docket…

My next blog will preview the 2018 Santa Anita Derby and the much-anticipated rematch of Bolt d’Oro vs McKinzie at Santa Anita Park. I will also preview the best of the two remaining Derby prep races that day between the Blue Grass Stakes and the Wood Memorial depending upon their entries. If time permits, I will preview all three.


2018 Louisiana Derby Preview


March 21st 2018

It is kind of hard to believe but the first of the final major Kentucky Derby prep races are among us with the Louisiana Derby scheduled for this Saturday. With 170 Derby points up for grabs, the 1st and 2nd place finishers are virtually guaranteed a spot in the Kentucky Derby field.

Although run since 1894, the Louisiana Derby doesn’t have a sterling record of producing Kentucky Derby winners. Only two Louisiana Derby winners have gone on to win the in the Kentucky Derby: Black Gold (1924) and Grindstone (1996). However, 2016 Louisiana Derby winner, Gun Runner, finished 3rd in the 2016 Kentucky Derby and had a wonderful career, retiring as the 2nd all-time leading money earner in North American racing behind Arrogate.

Below are the entries, post-positions, jockey assignments and morning line odds for the 105th Louisiana Derby.

The Louisiana Derby

The Louisiana Derby – 1 1/8th Mile – Race #11 at Fair Grounds – Post-Time: Saturday March 24th at 5:21 PM CST. Televised by TVG

1. Bravazo – Stevens/Lukas -7/2
2. Noble Indy – Velazquez/Pletcher – 7/2
3. Marmello – Gilligan/Yanakov – 50/1
4. Givemeaminit – Castellano/Stewart – 20/1
5. Retirement Fund –  Bridgmohan/Asmussen – 12/1
6. Hyndford – Bravo/Pletcher – 8/1 
7. Snapper Sinclair – Ortiz/Asmussen – 9/2
8. Lone Sailor – Graham/Amoss – 20/1
9. My Boy Jack – Desormeaux/Desormeaux – 5/2
10. Dark Templar – Geroux/Walsh – 12/1

Race Commentary: Overall, I like the talent in this field. The D. Wayne Lukas-trained Bravaso draws the rail, the same post position he used to edge out Snapper Sinclair by a nose in the Risen Star Stakes with a nice time of 1:42.95. The Desormeaux brothers have entered the Southwest Stakes winner My Boy Jack. The Todd Pletcher-trained Noble Indy is entered. Noble Indy finished 3rd in the Risen Star Stakes. From Steve Asmussen’s barn: Snapper Sinclair and Retirement Fund. 

My Boy Jack is a closer so I foresee this race coming down to Bravaso trying to hold off a late charging My Boy Jack. It this race is a dry race, I like Bravaso. If run in wet conditions, I like My Boy Jack who proved that he liked the slop in the Southwest Stakes.

On the Docket…

My next blog will preview the 2018 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park scheduled for Saturday March 31st.


2018 San Felipe Stakes – A Bolt d’Oro-McKinzie Showdown


March 7th 2018 – Updated March 10th 2018 

Coming up this Saturday at Santa Anita Park is a highly anticipated showdown of the top two Kentucky Derby contenders in Bolt d’Oro and McKinzie in the San Felipe Stakes. In my opinion, this is the biggest race for this Derby class since the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

Below are the entries, post-positions, weights, jockey assignments and morning line odds.  Calexman has been scratched.

The San Felipe Stakes

The San Felipe Stakes – 1 1/16th Mile – Race #6 at Santa Anita Park – Post-Time: Saturday March 10th at 4:53 PM CST. Televised by TVG

1. Bolt d’Oro (124) – Castellano/Ruis – 2/1
2. Lombo (122) – Bejarano/Pender – 8/1
3. Ayacara (120) – Desormeaux/Desormeaux – 8/1
4. McKinzie (122) – Smith/Baffert – 8/5
5. Aquila (120) –  Pedroza/Callaghan – 15/1
6. Calexman (122) – Quinonez/Cerin – 30/1 SCRATCHED
7. Peace (120) – Van Dyke/Mandella – 15/1
8. Kanthaka (120) – Prat/Hollendorfer – 4/1

Race Commentary:  A very top-heavy field as far as talent. Although I think Bolt d’Oro has the most promise of any Kentucky Derby contender, he is coming off a 126 day layoff so I like Bob Baffert’s McKinzie here for the win. McKinzie is further along in his training at present, having raced January 6th in the Sham Stakes. There is little doubt in my mind that if Bolt d’Oro actually wins this race, he will be the undisputed Kentucky Derby favorite entering the last prep races before the Derby.

Are there any other colts in this field that could spring a big upset? I don’t think so. The rest of the field will be jockeying for 2nd or 3rd. If I had to choose one horse that could surprise, I’d pick Kaleem Shah’s son of Union Rags–Aquila. Trained by Simon Callaghan, Aquila was victorious in his last start in a maiden special weight race at Santa Anita Park at this same 1 1/16th mile distance. However, another horse to keep an eye on is the Jerry Hollendorfer-trained Kanthaka. Kanthaka posted a 99 Beyer Speed Figure in his last start in the 7 furlong San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita Park back on February 10th. He will be stepping up in distance for the first time, having never raced beyond 7 furlongs.

With the scratch of Calexman, this is not a good race for Superfecta wagers. Overall, I feel that this is a “Can’t miss” race and one that could be the start of a much needed new rivalry.


My Top Three Kentucky Derby Contenders


March 5th 2018

With Good Magic’s disappointing third place finish in the Fountain of Youth Stakes, I have a new Top 3 Kentucky Derby contender list. The Fountain of Youth Stakes race winning time was 1:44.17 and won by the Dale Romans-trained Promises Fulfilled (shown below). This time was 0.83 seconds slower than Good Magic’s race winning time back about 3 months ago in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Del Mar.

This is concerning for Good Magic’s  fans and connections as Gulfstream Park is an equally fast track. Good Magic had been training well so I was surprised by this effort.

At any rate, this coming Saturday at Santa Anita Park, we will have a showdown of my #1 and #2 Derby contenders–Bolt d’Oro and McKinzie–in the San Felipe Stakes. I will preview that race and have it out by Wednesday.

My Top 3 Kentucky Derby Contenders

Below are detailed profiles on my Top 3 Kentucky Derby contenders:

1) Bolt d’Oro – Although he won two Grade 1 races and produced the highest Beyer Speed Figure of any 2-year-colt last year, he lost the Eclipse Award for 2 Year Old Male Champion to Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Good Magic. I was a little surprised by this. He is the paternal half brother to Songbird and Rachel Alexandra out of an A.P. Indy mare so I love the pedigree. He picks up four time Eclipse Jockey of the Year Javier Castellano as his rider. His Next Start:  The 2018 San Felipe at Santa Anita Park on March 10th.

Career: 4 Starts 3-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>3rd
Sire: Medaglia d’Oro (Finished 4th in 2002 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Mick Ruis
Jockey:  Javier Castellano
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.54 – 2017 FrontRunner Stakes
Closing Speed Estimate: 35.62 mph
Career Best Speed Figures: 103 Beyer, 105 Brisnet, 109 Equibase

2) McKinzie – He is the Top 3 year-old in Bob Baffert’s barn thus far. He is undefeated in three starts. He has plenty of winners behind him. His sire (Street Sense), trainer (Bob Baffert) and jockey (Mike Smith) are all former Kentucky Derby winners. His Next Start:  Like Bolt d’Oro, it appears to be the 2018 San Felipe at Santa Anita Park on March 10th. Oh what a race that will be. Mark your calendars.

Career: 3 Starts 3-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Street Sense (2007 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Trainer: Bob Baffert (1997, 1998, 2002, 2015 Kentucky Derby winning trainer)
Jockey: Mike Smith (2005 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.69 (estimated) – 2017 Los Alamitos Futurity
Closing Speed Estimate: 36.99 mph
Career Best Speed Figures: 99 Beyer, 104 Brisnet, 110 Equibase

3) Audible – The 2018 Holy Bull Stakes winner and probably the early Florida Derby favorite. The only question mark is his pedigree and whether he will like the 10 furlong distance. His sire Into Mischief never raced further than 8 1/2 furlongs. His Next Start:  The Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park on March 31st.

Career: 4 Starts 3-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Into Mischief 
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2010 and 2017 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey:  Javier Castellano
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.92 – 2018 Holy Bull Stakes
Closing Speed Estimate: 37.60 mph
Career Best Speed Figures: 99 Beyer, 105 Brisnet, 99 Equibase


The 2018 Fountain of Youth Stakes – Does Good Magic still any magic left?



March 1st 2018 – Updated March 3rd 2018 4 PM CST

It has been a relatively quiet 2018 Derby trail season with two of the top three Kentucky Derby favorites–Good Magic and Bolt d’Oro–having been idle since the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile nearly four months ago. Argh, this is reflected in my blog views and especially since so many exciting older horses were retired last year.

Admittedly, it’s been a bit of a dull run since the Breeders’ Cup Championships. But everything is about to change this month as this year’s Derby class is talented and will carry the torch forward for the sport due to the dearth of talent left in the older horse division. This is not my opinion, but sadly, unfortunately, the unbridled truth. No American Pharoah, California Chrome, Arrogate to excite the masses.

Ok, its time to get excited again as a very talented colt, Good Magic, is entered in the Fountain of Youth Stakes this Saturday at Gulfstream Park. Does the son of Curlin have any magic left? He resumed training on January 1st and if his workout times are any indication, he should be ready to fire another great performance for trainer Chad Brown.

Below are the entries, post-positions, weights, jockey assignments and morning line odds. The race winner will secure enough points to make the 2018 Kentucky Derby field:

The Holy Bull Stakes

The Holy Bull Stakes – 1 1/16th Mile – Race #14 at Gulfstream Park – Post-Time: Saturday February 3rd at 5:09 PM CST. Televised by TVG

1. He Takes Charge (116) – Gafflione/Casse – 20/1 
2. Free Drop Billy (122) – Albarado/Romans – 9/2  SCRATCHED
3. Peppered (116) – Juarez/Baker – 30/1
4. Strike Power (122) – Saez/Hennig – 4/1
5. Storm Runner (116) – Rosario/Romans – 15/1
6. Good Magic (122) – J.Ortiz/Brown – 7/5
7. Gotta Go (120) – Landeros/Wilkes – 10/1
8. Marconi (116) – Castellano/Pletcher – 8/1
9. Machismo (116) – Jimenez/Quarterolo – 15/1
10. Promises Fulfilled (116) – Ortiz Jr/Romans – 20/1

Race Commentary:  Two words, Good Magic. I am not 100% confident with a colt coming off a long layoff but I like his chances in this field. I can’t bet against him.

What might be more interesting is who finishes 2nd. Strike Power is undefeated in two starts. Free Drop Billy has run well for trainer Dale Romans. I have liked the prospects of Todd Pletcher’s Marconi. Overall, I like this Trifecta finish: 1) Good Magic, 2) Free Drop Billy, 3) Strike Power.

Free Drop Billy has been scratched. Now most of the money will be bet on Good Magic so I don’t think this will be a good betting race unless you think Strike Power can pull the upset.

Check back later for updates and scratches.

On the Docket…

My next blog will preview the 2018 San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita Park and the 2018 Tampa Bay Derby at Tamp Bay Downs. Both races are scheduled for Saturday March 10th.