Thursday, March 18, 2010

Florida Derby

Gulfstream Park

Saturday March 20, 2010
Estimated Local Post Time: 6:20 pm
Name: Florida Derby Grade: 1
Purse: $750,000
Distance/Restrictions: 1 1/8 Miles, Dirt, 3 Year Olds, STAKES

Soaring Empire
Pleasant Prince
Game On Dude
First Dude
Ice Box
Miner’s Reserve
Best Actor

This weekend’s Florida Derby, which is one of biggies in horse racing with a purse of three quarters of a million, features, in my opinion, one major contender and a number of horses who probably don’t belong in the same league.

The major contender I’m referring to is the #7 horse Rule who cantors into the Florida Derby having chalked up four straight trips to the winners circle, including the very lucrative (and aptly named) Delta Jackpot – where he defeated Uh Oh Bango and Co.

Rule also racked up a solid win in the Sam F. Davis stakes where he took the lead early and never looked back. He goes into the race as the morning line favorite and as much as I’d like to guess on a Murray State (Go Racers) over Vanderbilt quality upset here – I think the Rule will be golden once again at the end of the day.

I suppose I could just end my Florida Derby analysis with Rule coming in first – but that just isn’t my style.

I’m just going to go ahead and lump together the Jeff Bridges special of Game on Dude, First Dude and Best Actor – (I call them the Jeff Bridges special because of him playing “the Dude” in the Big Lebowski – and his Best Actor victory in the Oscars this year)…..

However the only one of the three that I think have an outside chance is First Dude who finished in second place in his last outing at this distance at this racetrack. I just don’t see these horses in the same class as the more favored horses, and while First Dude could crack the top 3 – even then I think he needs a lot of things to go right.

Soaring Empire (#1) is fresh off of a 1 mile victory here at Gulfstream, however he’s never attempted anything further than a mile – which may not prove to be a problem because the Empire tends to strike late as opposed to looking for an early lead. Again I think this horse is out of his class, and could struggle with the distance – but at 20/1 he may be worth a $2 gamble.

For those who don’t know Lentenor the #2 horse is a full baby brother of former Kentucky Derby Champion, and one of my personal favorites Barbaro. In horse racing circles Barbaro was known as being even better on Turf than he was a Dirt horse….and at the time he was arguably the best dirt horse in the world.

Lentenor, like his brother before him, has had some good fortune on Turf having a victory and two second place outings in his last three races. However, unlike his brother, Lentenor isn’t as dominant a horse as Barbaro was…..then again very few horses ever are. Wouldn’t be surprised to see Lentenor finish in the top 3, because he’s familiar with the distance and seems to handle it relatively well, but I would be surprised to seem him win the Florida Derby.

Pulsion’s last two finishes are 6th and 11th – I think the owners are just throwing up a hail mary in hopes of him getting an invite to the Kentucky Derby.

Pleasant Prince, who finished two spots ahead of Pulsion in the Fountain of Youth stakes, has two outings at this distance and at this racetrack but I just haven’t seen enough talent to believe he’s a real contender in this race.

Ice Box had two straight victories (one over Pleasant Prince) before landing in 5th place in the Fountain of Youth Stakes. A more telling race may be his 4th place finish behind winner Rule back in October. Considering the lack of talent in this race (aside from Rule) Ice Box may be an intriguing bet for second place as he’s currently going off at 15/1

Miner’s Reserve could be in the best position to challenge Rule this weekend. With jockey Kent Desormeaux in charge and solid closing speed – I think Miner’s Reserve could very well end up being the 2nd favorite in this race. The one factor I’m not crazy about is that he doesn’t have any experience at this distance – which in turn makes me more reserve about the Miner.

And finally the English gentlemen Radiohead who is currently the second favorite on the morning line – and some handicappers like him to have a modest upset over Rule this Saturday. I’m going the other way on this one however – Radiohead, while very impressive in his last outing – has (similar to a number of these horses) never attempted this distance, and I’m really not a big fan of his post position. Radiohead has a tendency to creep up to the lead very early in races and as the 11th horse I think he’s going to struggle in the first turn. Especially if Rule and Miner’s Reserve decide to also challenge the pace and force Radiohead to run three or four wide – making it dimensionally an even longer race than 1 1/8 miles. At his current 3/1 odds – I don’t like him to finish well in this outing.

Can’t say I’m offering much of a surprise here – but I’m taking Rule in the winner’s circle, followed by a mild surprise of Lentenor and Miner’s Reserve just edging out First Dude and Radiohead.

Closing Speed likes – 7-2-9

· I also think this would be a very good race to put Rule in an exacta with a few longshots – such as Soaring Empire, Ice Box, First Dude and even Lentenor – the $4 investment is worth a look.

To kick off a musical weekend – I present Japan’s Ayumi Hamasaki who’s video Rule features her in a tight black outfit, Dancing Ninja’s, and lyrics I can’t understand.

Ms. Hamasaki is like the Lady Gaga of Japan – however Hamasaki’s song Poker Face (same title / different song) came out almost a decade before Lady Gaga, and the guitar riffs in this song sound very familiar as well – makes you think….enjoy!

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