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Florida Derby Preview: Loaded Field Takes Aim at Grade 1 Glory
Coglianese Photos-Lauren King

Florida Derby Preview: Loaded Field Takes Aim at Grade 1 Glory

The feature race of the Gulfstream Park Championship Meet is set for this Saturday: the 69th running of the Florida Derby (G1). From the first 68 editions, a total of 45 starters eventually captured 60 Triple Crown events, which includes 25 Kentucky Derby champions, 19 Preakness winners, and 16 Belmont victors.

The main event is part of a 14-race card featuring seven stakes. Among them, the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) for 3-year-old fillies, the Gulfstream Park Mile (G2), and the Pan American (G2) are part of what should be a stellar day of racing. 

Morning line favoritism belongs to Tiz the Law, who impressively won the Holy Bull Stakes (G3) last time out over this race track. The Sackatoga Stables-owned colt is near the top of seemingly everyone’s Kentucky Derby contenders lists. He drew post 7 for the event and will have Manny Franco aboard for the ride yet again.

He’ll be challenged by the Jerome Stakes winner Independence Hall, who ships to Gulfstream Park after finishing second last time out in the Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs. Even though the colt lost that race, he did show improvement compared to his Jerome effort. He’ll break from post 9 with Joel Rosario up for the ride.

The most recent winner of this group is Ete Indien, who dominated his rivals last time out in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2). He will be the only runner who competed in all three of the major Kentucky Derby prep races at Gulfstream Park, having finished second to Tiz the Law in the Holy Bull. Ete Indien and red-hot jockey Florent Geroux will break from the far outside post 12 for the second straight time.

The full field from the rail out includes As Seen On Tv, Shivaree, Disc Jockey, Soros, Gouverneur Morris, Ajaaweed, Tiz the Law, My First Grammy, Independence Hall, Candy Tycoon, Sassy But Smart, Ete Indien, and the Also-Eligible Rogue Element.

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Top Choice 

#7 Tiz the Law – It’s hard to find any flaws with his romp in the Holy Bull Stakes (G3) last time out, which looks even stronger since runner-up finisher Ete Indien came back to dominate the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2). His workout pattern seems solid coming into the race and the added distance shouldn’t bother him. Simply put, he is squarely the one to beat, and if he shows up with his previous effort, he should get the job done. 

Horses to Use in Multi-Race Wagers 

#9 Independence Hall – He is the most intriguing of the top runners. He was a monster as a 2-year-old, but his races this season haven’t been great. He did win the Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct on New Year’s Day, but he looked far from perfect. Last time out, he looked like a winner when turning for home in the Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3), but Sole Volante easily passed him in the stretch. He contested a hot pace in that race, though, so he might have a better closing kick here with different pace dynamics. That makes him playable if his odds float up from his morning line price (9/2).

#12 Ete Indien – This horse announced his arrival on the scene last time out, dominating his foes in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) for an 8 1/2-length victory. He has proven that he can be the controlling speed and still finish strongly, so the horses coming from behind will be forced to go after him and really earn the victory. The other positive is Ete Indien’s pedigree when it comes to longer distances. He should continue to shine the longer they go. Look for him to show up ready to roll.

Exotic Plays 

#6 Ajaaweed – This seems to be the classic “hit the board” type that we see every Kentucky Derby season. He drops to the back and makes a run at the end, passing tired horses to grab a piece. The problem is that he never actually threatens to win, a likely result again in this spot. The added distance will help him, but he does not have a fast enough closing kick to beat the better horses in this race.

#10 Candy Tycoon – This horse has slowly progressed into a nice-looking colt. After disappointing in his first few starts, he broke his maiden impressively on Pegasus Day at Gulfstream Park. From there, he came back to run second last time out in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2). However, he was still beaten several lengths in that spot, which is why hitting the board is liking to be his ceiling.

Party Crashers 

#5 Gouverneur Morris – He’ll get a big test after showing great promise last time out at Tampa Bay Downs, where he won an allowance race impressively. He was able to defeat Untitled in that spot, who came back to finish second in the Gotham Stakes (G3) last time out. From the beginning, this Todd Pletcher trainee had a lot of hype. It’s time to find out where he stands against a field as tough as this one.

For our FULL CARD PICKS check out our Florida Derby Guide

Throw Outs

#4 Soros – He won the Smooth Air Stakes impressively to round out his 2-year-old season, which gave him some hype heading into this season. He’s getting going a little late in the year to be a factor here, so he likely needs a race under his belt before he’s ready to compete with these types of horses. 

#1 As Seen On Tv – After a very close runner-up effort in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes, this horse disappointed in the Fountain of Youth, finishing a distant third. He has proven to be a solid horse, but as the distances get longer, he become less attractive from a betting perspective. 

#2 Shivaree – After finishing second in a couple of tough sprint stakes recently, this colt will stretch out in distance. He has been successful as a sprinter, winning three of his last five starts, but stretching out in distance is going to be a major question mark for him. 

#3 Disc Jockey – Last year, Maximum Security won this race after starting out in the maiden claiming ranks. That’s exactly what Disc Jockey will try to do here. However, he hasn’t shown nearly the same talent level, which makes him a big long shot. 

#11 Sassy But Smart – We’ll see if this horse can move to the dirt after finishing fourth last time out in the Palm Beach Stakes (G3). His turf speed figures don’t match up with this group.

#8 My First Grammy – This son of Curlin will try to win his first career race in this spot after three straight losses. He seems to be getting better with each race, but this is too tough of a test for him to pass.

#13 Rogue Element – If he draws in, this maiden will try to do some damage after finishing a close second last time out over this track. He can be quickly thrown out because his speed figures just don’t match up with this group.

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