Trainer Michael Matz will send the talented Union Rags to the starting gate today as the prohibitive 6-5 morning line favorite in the 63rd running of the $1 million Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park.
A head loss to Hansen in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Stakes (G1) at Churchill Downs last fall is the only blemish on Union Rags’ sterling record of four wins in five starts with an 18¼-length winning margin.
Three of Union Rags’ five career starts boast triple digit Brisnet Speed Figures including a 103 speed figure he earned in his debut as a 3-year-old in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream Park in February.
Union Rags is the deserving favorite and looms as the horse to beat but he may not have it so easy in the Florida Derby (G1) if El Padrino (2-1) repeats the form of his last two races.
If you are a speed handicapper, El Padrino is the best colt on the trail with a whopping 111 Brisnet Speed Figure that he earned in his 3-year-old debut at Gulfstream Park in January. He followed that performance with a 101 speed figure in a gutsy stretch duel with Mark Valeski in the Risen Star Stakes (G2) at the Fair Grounds in February.
In five career starts, El Padrino has never finished out of the money. His worst placing was a third-place finish in the Remsen Stakes (G2) last fall at Aqueduct where he narrowly missed first-place honors by three-quarters of a length.
At 8-1 morning line odds, News Pending appears to be the best looking long shot. After four previous attempts, News Pending finally broke his maiden running 9-furlongs on the turf at Gulfstream Park last December. He followed that with two second-place finishes in February, also at Gulstream Park, including a four-length loss to Union Rags in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2).
Harlan’s Holiday, the sire of News Pending, was a good middle-distance runner and he won the 2002 edition of the Florida Derby.
Take Charge Indy (5-1) showed a lot of improvement making his 3-year-old debut in January at Gulfstream Park where he finished second to El Padrino and earned a 109 Brisnet Speed Figure. Prior to that, since his impressive maiden debut win by 6½-lengths last July, Take Charge Indy struggled as a 2-year-old competing in stakes competition.
Take Charge Indy has room to improve in his second start of the season and another move forward will make him competitive in today’s race.