Rail Runner

The Observations of a Horse Racing Enthusiast

Gulfstream Weekend: Florida Derby and Everything Else

Posted by Brian Appleton on March 19, 2010


The winner of the $750,000 Florida Derby (gr.1) this Saturday should be easy to choose if you rely on past performances. But sometimes things aren’t as clear cut in reality as they seem spelled out in black and white. With the defection of leading Kentucky Derby candidate and Fountain of Youth victor Eskendereya, Rule has inherited the status of favorite and has been installed as the 7-5 favorite. He will most likely be the heavy betting favorite as well in the Florida Derby as he enters off 4 consecutive victories. His latest victory came in the Sam F. Davis Stakes (gr.3) in front-running fashion by 3 lengths. He has a huge class edge over the rest of the field and is the sole graded stakes winner entered. The big issue for him here is whether or not he can give up the lead and instead use tactical speed and rate off the front-runners. Most of his wins have come going gate to wire but he has rated as a 2-year-old last year. Jockey John Velazquez will ride the Roman Ruler colt once again from the #7 post.  Radiohead, Lentenor, Miner’s Reserve, Ice Box, Pleasant Prince, First Dude, Soaring Empire, Game On Dude, Best Actor and Pulsion complete the field.

Radiohead is one of the more intriguing entries in the Florida Derby. He enters off a good allowance victory going 7 furlongs at Gulfstream last month. Although he won the race by 3 ¼ lengths I haven’t been overly impressed with this son of Johannesburg. As a juvenile he won 2 of his 6 starts and finished 7th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on synthetics.

The most intriguing entry in the Florida Derby is Lentenor, the 3-year-old full brother to 2006 ill-fated Kentucky


Derby and Florida Derby winner Barbaro. Lentenor takes to the dirt for the first time in the Florida Derby after showing an affinity for grass. He finished 3rd first out in his 2-year-old debut in October then finished second in late November. On January 20th he broke through with his maiden victory in impressive style at Gulfstream, winning by open lengths. In his most recent start he finished a strong second on the turf as the favorite February 17th. If he wins the Florida Derby he will create one of the most spell-binding feel-good stories the sport has ever encountered by emulating his famous and much-loved brother Barbaro. Personally I am in his corner on this one. According to trainer Michael Matz the decision to enter Lentenor came after the colt posted a very good work and came out of the work in equally good condition. I don’t know if he can pull it off or not, but the family is certainly not short on talent.

Miner’s Reserve is listed at the same odds as Lentenor at 6-1. In his last effort he won his maiden in his second start by more than 5 lengths at Gulfstream. He has since been creeping his way onto the radar screen of many people.

The field here seems to have limitless possibilities and plenty of talent. Almost any one of the contenders entered would not surprise most fans by winning.

The Swale Stakes (gr.2) at Gulfstream looks to be D’Funnybone’s race to lose. Last out the chestnut colt easily defeated


the field assembled for the Hutcheson Stakes (gr.2) also at Gulfstream when winning in hand by 1 length. His only career loss came when his finished last in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last year, apparently not caring for the synthetic surface.  His biggest threat in the Swale appears to be the gelding Dixie Band. Dixie Band won his first 3 starts in 2009 before finishing 10th in the Breeders’ Futurity and being put away for the rest of the year. This will be his 3-year-old debut and he gets an added bonus with red-hot jockey Julien Leparoux jumping on board as his rider. Another contender with a good chance is Gary D. This colt’s last start resulted in a nearly 4 length win in the OBS Sprint after winning his maiden at Tampa Bay Downs in January by 6 ½ lengths.

The Bonnie Miss Stakes (gr.2) at Gulfstream looks to be a two horse race. Amen Hallelujah enters in excellent form after winning the Santa Ynez Stakes (gr.2) at Santa Anita and then taking the Davona Dale at Gulfstream by more than 6 lengths on February 27th. In the later she earned a remarkable 100 Beyer Speed Figure.

Christine Daae is the buzz horse here and has been ever since her dazzling maiden win by more than 8 lengths in January at Gulfstream. She followed that up with another impressive victory against an allowance field when winning by 2 ¾ lengths.

Amen Hallelujah has the experience edge and is on a roll since the beginning of the year as is Christine Daae. Both

Amen Hallelujah

fillies are looking to secure favoritism for the upcoming Kentucky Oaks and prove they can lead the 3-year-old filly division. Their biggest threat could come from a filly that has lacked spark of late. Devil May Care is the only grade 1 winner in the field but has turned in very poor efforts in her last two starts, finishing 11th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and then 5th as the favorite in the Silverbulletday (gr.3) at Fair Grounds in her 2010 debut.

Also racing this weekend will be the sensational Venezuelan 4-year-old filly Bambera. She has only lost 2 of her 18 lifetime starts in her native Venezuela and takes on American runners Don’t Forget Gil, Aurora Lights and Champagne Eyes in Gulfstream’s Rampart Stakes (gr.3). If she wins this one watch out, she could prove to one of the better fillies ever to invade American soil.

Before I finish I just need to make mention of the Appleton Stakes (gr.3) at Gulfstream Park. Since my last name just happens to be Appleton I naturally follow this race every year with a great amount of amusement and enthusiasm. This year 2009 Appleton winner Kiss the Kid returns to try and hold onto his crown against the likes the of often brilliant Rahy’s Attorney. Someday I’ll have to find a way to win the race with a horse of my own.

Enjoy the weekend everyone and hopefully you’ll all find some live picks during the races! Go Lentenor, Amen Hallelujah, D’Funnybone, Kiss the Kid and Bambera!


9 Responses to “Gulfstream Weekend: Florida Derby and Everything Else”

  1. Rule is not only the heavy favorite but he has a clear pace advantage. There is simply not enough high quality early speed in this race. He can bide his time for the first half of the race and turn this into a 7 furlong sprint.

    Tough for me to leave out of the exacta. Radiohead figures to get a wide trip all around. Not for me.

    Other faves from this weekend are Kiss the Kid whose trainer Amy Tarrant posed for my camera last summer. He was slated to be retired but he’s too good looking for study duties I suppose. 😉

    The Appleton Handicap. Well I’ve been meaning to ask you for ages if you were related to the famed breeder Arthur Appleton?
    So whaddya say?

    • Brian,

      First off, great synopsis of the weekend action. I also believe the Florida Derby is wide open. RULE is no slam dunk.


      How do you figure RULE with a pace advantage? Certainly he has a winning advantage w/ four wins in six starts and two graded stakes wins. His last vs. SCHOOLYARD DREAMS was solid but I never like a short price with a target on his back while switching tracks. I think there’s more pace entered than it may appear at first glance, from the two ‘DUDE’ entrants and MINER’S RESERVE. Of course, thinking of Derby wagers I hope RULE wins to spice up the pace proceedings and set up my preferred contenders.

      RADIOHEAD is my tepid pick because of the post, LENTENOR has every right to adore the dirt but he’s bound to take too much sentimental $ and his style could be compromised in my projection of the race shape. I’m giving a LS look to SOARING EMPIRE who’s got the breeding to win this event and should be picking off tiring horses in the stretch.

      RE: RADIOHEAD…that final 1/4 in :23.80 is extraordinary for a dirt finish. Last out he beat HOMEBOYKRIS, a former G.1 winner, on the square. If a contested pace materializes, he could be in the garden spot when RULE and the other speed comes back.

      RE: SOARING EMPIRE…EMPIRE MAKER (Belmont S., Florida Derby, etc.) on top and A.P. INDY damsire (HOY, BC Classic, Belmont S., etc.); 20-1 morning line! Too lightly raced to be a Derby winner, but this year’s version of SUMMER BIRD could at least hit the board with an imposing finish at a big number while becoming a strong Belmont Stakes contender.

      Question for both: Any chance that AMEN HALLELUJAH bounces off that freakish Davona Dale win? CHRISTINE DAAE is the wiseguy option, but DEVIL MAY CARE could sprint to the lead and never look back on a speed-favoring track with a much shorter stretch than at FG.

      I’m going to have to look up BAMBERA’s videos…is she invited to the Apple Blossom and do you think she takes on ZENYATTA if she wins the Rampart?

      • TKS-As far as I know there’s no relation to Arthur Appleton but I’d love it if there were. Maybe my love for horse racing didn’t just “happen”, maybe it’s a distant family trait! 🙂

        Amatuercapper-Thanks Rob (it is Rob right?)I’m glad to see not everyone is handing the race to Rule on a silver platter, even though he is a stand-out.
        You’re absolutely right when you say that Lentenor will be taking a ton of sentimental money. Steve Haskin worded it best when he said his band wagon will be “standing room only” if he puts on a good showing.
        I don’t think Amen Hallelujah will bounce here, she looks like a really strong contender to me at this point. On the other hand I’m having a hard time deciding what to make of Christine Daae. My gut tells me she won’t win but I’m usually wrong when I go by my “gut instinct”.
        Bambera was originally slated to go straight to the Apple Blossom with no US prep, but since Rachel is out her connections decided to give her a race and then decide on their next move. It sounds to me like they aren’t planning on going anymore unless she shows up in a huge way.

  2. Great article! I should be very interesting to see if Lentenor can match Barbaro’s victory in the Florida Derby.

    Also – I would love to see Christine Daae get some graded earnings. She seems to have so much potential if she qualifies for the Oaks!

    • Hi Jennifer-It would be incredible seeing Lentenor match Barbaro’s feat and very good publicity for the sport as well.

      Chistine Daae certainly seems talented and good enough to start in the Oaks but I still like Blink Luck the best for this year’s 3-year-old fillies.

  3. Brian,
    the FL Derby has me more befuddled than usual. I’m not sure what will happen if Rule faces significant pace pressure and I can’t see the other jocks letting Johnny V get away will being alone on the lead at his own pace. Also not sure Rule has a big class edge considering he’s been running at Delta and Tampa Bay Downs. Granted, he’s booked a lot of cash, but what happens when he faces a field full of quality horses. The FL Derby isn’t exactly the strongest G1 Derby prep I’ve ever seen, but it’s the strongest field Rule has ever seen.

    We find out tomorrow if he’s for real.

    • Hi Steve,
      The reason I said Rule has a big class edge is because he’s the only graded winner in the field, is on a graded stakes winning streak and in the Sam F. Davis he handily defeated Schoolyard Dreams. Schoolyard Dreams came super close to winning the Tampa Bay Derby and he bested highly-regarded Super Saver. Plus I think Odysseus is better than most of us realize yet.
      The Florida Derby has me pretty confused too though. I’m going more by who I want to win this one than who I think this time. (:

      • Brian,
        Brisnet agrees w/ you; their PPs gave Rule a significant class edge as well. But I wasn’t quibbling w/ your assessment so much as to say that even though Rule was winning graded stakes, he seemed to be cherry-picking the easy ones. But since Pletch has so many good Derby prospects, he was trying to keep them apart I guess.

        I’m just glad someone finally decided to put some pace pressure on Rule, and quite surprisingly, it came from Pulsion of all horses. I’m figured him to be much more of a stalker, but Nakatani wasn’t gonna let Johnny V waltz around the track. Lezcano and Leparoux should buy C-Nak a drink 🙂

      • I was really surprised to see Pulsion up front too. His trainer said the same thing after the race so I guess that wasn’t the plan…did somebody goof? 🙂

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