©2014 Calvin L. Carter. All rights reserved.
The “Road To The Kentucky Derby” enters the stretch drive this weekend with the UAE Derby (G1), Florida Derby (G1) and Louisiana Derby (G1) kicking off phase three of the new scoring system implemented by Churchill Downs to determine which horses will qualify to enter the Kentucky Derby (G1) starting gate. The winner of those races will receive 100 points each and it’s “Now or Never” for many of the horses on the Derby Trail.
Television coverage of Dubai Racing can be seen Saturday on HRTV and TVG beginning at 9 a.m., ET. You can also watch Dubai Racing online here. Live coverage of the Florida Derby (G1) and Louisiana Derby (G1) will be broadcast on the NBC Sports Network at 6:30 p.m., ET.
Let’s take a look at the Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park.
Cairo Prince, trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, has been tabbed at the morning-line 9-5 favorite. He comes into the Derby with a 3-1-0 record in four starts including wins in the Nashua Stakes (G2), Remsen Stakes (G2) and Holy Bull Stakes (G2) which he won by an impressive 5¾-lengths in January.
Despite the two-month layoff since his last race, McLaughlin thinks that Cairo Prince is a “special horse” and you can read more of his comments at the Downey Profile here.
Cairo Prince has been training well at the Palm Meadows Training Center and a recent bullet work could have him ready to run a good race. Cairo Prince looms as the horse to beat.
A long shot I like in this race is Spot (8-1) who comes into the Derby with 2-1-0 record in six starts including a win in the 7-furlong Swale Stakes (G2) at Gulstream Park earlier this month. The fractions in the Swale were blistering fast and Spot, who trailed early, looked impressive coming from the back of the herd to beat No Nay Never, the 2-5 heavy favorite, by 2½-lengths. Here’s the video and chart call of Spot’s win in the Swale:
SPOT unhurried early, swung out for the stretch run, then rallied to take over nearing the eighth pole and drew clear.
Spot has the breeding to handle the stretch out to 9-furlongs and Nick Zito, the trainer of Spot, knows how to get young horses ready for big races. He’s won the Derby three times with Dialed In (2011), Ice Box (2010) and High Fly (2005).
Spot could be getting good at the right time of year and a recent bullet work out at the Palm Meadows Training Center could have him ready to run a good race for a decent price.
General a Rod (7-2), trained by Michael Maker, and Constitution (4-1), trained by Todd Pletcher, look like they could be competitive.
General a Rod comes into the Derby with a 2-2-0 record in four starts including a narrow loss by a head in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) to Wildcat Red (3-1) who’s also entered in this race. Constitution comes into this race undefeated in two starts including a 3¼-length win in an optional claiming race at Gulfstream Park on February 22.
But another long shot I’m most interested in is East Hall (20-1) who comes into this race with a 2-1-4 record in 12 starts for trainer William Kaplan. East Hall finished third, just 2¼-lengths behind General a Rod and Wildcat Red, in the one-mile Gulfstream Park Derby on January 1. And in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) last month, East Hall finished fourth to the dueling Wildcat Red and General a Rod who covered the 8½-furlongs in a fast time of 1:41.85.
I’m not so sure that General a Rod and Wildcat Red can carry their speed to 9-furlongs and, if they fade at the end, that could be a good opportunity for East Hall to figure in the exotics at a nice price.
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:
2014 KENTUCKY DERBY LEADERBOARD
Individual Leaders ranking, total points, Trainer, Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
1. We Miss Artie, 60, Todd Pletcher, $544,000
2. Samraat, 60, Rick Violette, Jr., $450,000
3. Hoppertunity, 55, Bob Baffert, $376,000
4. Chitu, 54, Bob Baffert, $440,000
5. Intense Holiday, 53, Todd Pletcher, $327,500
6. Midnight Hawk, 52, Bob Baffert, $320,000
7. Wildcat Red, 50, Jose Garrofalo, $410,000
8. Ring Weekend, 50, Graham Motion, $210,000
9. California Chrome, 50, Art Sherman, $182,250
10. Tapiture, 42, Steve Asmussen, $420,738
11. Albano, 24, Larry Jones, $150,000
11. Uncle Sigh, 24, Gary Contessa, $150,000
13. Vinceremos, 20, Todd Pletcher, $190,000
14. Vicar’s in Trouble, 20, Mike Maker, $160,000
15. General A Rod, 20, Mike Maker, $140,000
16. Ride On Curlin, 15, Billy Gowan, $154,387
17. Havana, 14, Todd Pletcher, $660,000
18. Cairo Prince, 14, Kiaran McGlaughlin, $470,000
19. Kristo, 14, John Sadler, $56,000
20. Coastline, 13, Mark Casse, $129,679