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
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!