The “Road To The Kentucky Derby” enters the stretch drive this weekend with the Florida Derby (G1), Louisiana Derby (G1) and the UAE Derby (G1) kicking off phase three of the new scoring system implemented by Churchill Downs to determine eligibility to enter the Kentucky Derby (G1) starting gate. The winner of those races will receive 100 points each and for many colts on the Derby trail, it’s “do or die” time.
Let’s take a look at the Florida Derby (G1).
Trainer Eddie Plesa’s 3-year-old colt, Itsmyluckyday heads a field of 10 horses as the 2-1 morning-line favorite in the 64th running of the $1 million Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Florida.
Itsmyluckyday has been training well and I look for him to run a good race. In January, he was my pick in the Holy Bull Stakes (G3) to upset the Eclipse Champion 2-year-old, Shanghai Bobby, who’s also entered in the Florida Derby (G1) as the 5-2 morning-line second choice.
As a 3-year-old, Itsmyluckyday is undefeated in two starts with victories in the Gulfstream Park Derby and the Holy Bull Stakes (G3). His form is similar to that of his sire, Lawyer Ron who was a tough competitor as a 3-year-old, and undefeated in four starts, on the 2006 Derby trail with victories in the Risen Star Stakes, Southwest Stakes, Rebel Stakes (G3) and Arkansas Derby (G2) en route to a 12th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby (G1).
Plesa has high hopes for Itsmyluckyday to earn enough points to get into the Derby starting gate. Another move forward off of his previous form will make him tough to beat in the Florida Derby (G1).
One colt that, perhaps, could severely test the courage of Itsmyluckyday is Pick of the Litter, a mild 6-1 long shot who is trained by Dale Romans. Pick of the Litter did not race as a 2-year-old and he is not nominated for the Kentucky Derby.
In his debut as a 3-year-old, Pick of the Litter finished ninth in a one-mile turf race at Gulfstream Park on February 2. He came back 25 days later at Gulfstream and easily broke his maiden by 7½-lengths in 9-furlong race that was taken off the turf.
The fractional splits were pretty good for Pick of the Litter, who stalked the pace. The final time of 1:49.35 and the 95 Brisnet Speed Figure he earned for that performance makes him a contender.
Since that race, Pick of the Litter has fired two bullets in workouts and another move forward will make him competitive in the Florida Derby.
Orb (3-1), a young Malibu Moon colt trained by Shug McGaughey, comes into the Florida Derby with a 3-0-1 record in starts including a half-length victory over a very game Violence in the Fountain Of Youth Stakes (G2).
Last August, Orb finished third in his maiden debut as a 2-year-old. He struggled in his next two starts, finishing off the board. Finally, on his fourth start last November, Orb broke his maiden, winning a one mile race at Aqueduct. As a 3-year-old, Orb is undefeated in two starts and he appears to be getting good at the right time of year.
Malibu Moon, the sire of Orb, only made two career starts. But with A.P. Indy has his grandsire and Unbridled has his damsire, Orb should not have a problem stretching out to 9-furlongs
Since the Fountain Of Youth Stakes (G2), Orb has been working good and another move forward will make him competitive in the Florida Derby (G1).
A long shot I like in this race is Indy’s Illusion (20-1) who finished fifth in the 9-furlong Remsen Stakes (G2) last November. The top three finishers in that race – Overanalyze, Normandy Invasion and Delhomme – all finished out of the money in their debut as 3-year-olds.
Despite those poor performances, Indy’s Illusion managed to finish third in his 3-year-old debut, racing 9-furlongs Gulfstream Park. And earlier this month at the same race track, Indy’s Illusion finished second in another 9-furlong race. The finish times for both of those races was slow but Indy’s Illusion is steadily improving and another move forward would make him competitive in the Florida Derby.
Shanghai Bobby is a very talented colt. However, I’ve always had concerns about how far he wanted to run, and his narrow victory over He’s Had Enough in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Stakes (G1) and his loss to Itmyluckyday in the Holy Bull Stakes confirmed those suspicions.
If Shanghai Bobby improves in his second start as a 3-year-old, he should be competitive. But I don’t like him for the win and would use him in the bottom of the exotics.
The winner of the Florida Derby (G1) will receive 100 points while second-place will yield 40 points, the third-place finisher will receive 20 points and the fourth-place finisher will receive 10 points. Here’s a look at the current top 20 list:
Kentucky Derby 2013 Leaderboard
(Updated March 29, 2013)
Individual Leaders ranking, total points, Trainer, Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
1 = Will Take Charge, 60, D. Wayne Lukas, $512,971
2 = Vyjack, 50, Rudy Rodriguez, $405,000
3 = Govenor Charlie, 50, Bob Baffert, $400,000
4 = Black Onyx, 50, Kelly Breen, $317,130
5 = Orb, 50, Shug McGaughey III, $240,000
6 = Verrazano, 50, Todd Pletcher, $210,000
7 = Hear The Ghost, 50, Jerry Hollendorfer, $195,400
8 = Oxbow, 36, D. Wayne Lukas, $316,000
9 = Uncaptured, 30, Mark Casse, $394,674
10 = Flashback, 30, Bob Baffert, $180,000
11 = Goldencents, 29, Doug O’Neill, $758,000
12 = Shanghai Bobby, 24, Todd Pletcher, $1,731,000
13 = Java’s War, 22, Ken McPeek, $201,772
14 = Den’s Legacy, 20, Bob Baffert, $325,000
15 = Falling Sky, 20, John Terranova II, $157,500
16 = West Hills Giant, 20, John Terranova II, $89,000
17 = Code West, 20, Bob Baffert, $80,000
18 = Dynamic Sky, 13, Mark Casse, $289,168
19 = Speak Logistics, 11, Eddie Pleasa, Jr., $52,500
20 = Itsmyluckyday, 10, Eddie Plesa, Jr., $393,600