©2017 Calvin L. Carter. All rights reserved.
The Road to the Kentucky Derby will take us to Gulfstream Park, Saturday, where Gunnevera will go the starting gate as the 9-5 morning line favorite in 66th running of the $1 million, Xpressbet.com Florida Derby (G1). Post time is 6:40 ET.
Gunnevera comes into the race for trainer Antonio Sano with a 4-2-0 record in eight starts including a commanding win in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) in his last outing. Here’s the video and chart call of that race:
GUNNEVERA bumped lightly with HURACAN AMERICO toward the rear heading to the first turn, moved up outside down the backstretch, began picking up rivals more rapidly four wide around the far turn, caught THREE RULES and PRACTICAL JOKE from the outside turning for home and drew off under steady pressure.
The time for the mile of 1:37.85 and final time of 1:44.25 were slower than what I like to see colts run on the Derby trail. However, with a C Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile®ranking, Gunnevera continues to show that he is a consistent competitor on the Kentucky Derby (G1) trail.
Dialed In, the sire of Gunnevera, won his only start as a two year old – a 6½ furlong maiden special weight by a half a length at Churchill Downs in November 2010. As a three year old, Dialed In won the one mile Holy Bull Stakes, finished second in a 9-furlong Allowance Optional Claiming race at Gulfstream Park, and won the Florida Derby (G1) by a head over Shackleford en route to an eighth place-finish in the Kentucky Derby (G1).
Gunnevera has been training well and he has room to improve in his third start of the season and I look for him to run another good race.
A long shot I like in this race is State of Honor (8-1) who comes into the Florida Derby (G1) with a 1-3-2 record in nine starts for trainer Mark Casse including a third-place finish in the Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) and a second-place finish to Tapwrit in the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby (G2). Here’s the video and chart call of that race:
STATE OF HONOR raced four wide early, pulled his way to the front, set the pace racing near the inside, responded when asked, was no match for the winner but continued gamely for place honors.
Tapwrit’s final time of 1:42.36 was a new stakes and track record and State of Honor was about a second slower, 4½ lengths back. If State of Honor runs close to that time it makes him very competitive in the Florida Derby (G1).
To Honor and Serve, the sire of State of Honor, was a young colt I liked, along with my top pick Animal Kingdom, on the 2011 Kentucky Derby Trail.
In three racing seasons, To Honor and Serve was a multiple graded-stakes winner who compiled an 8-1-3 record in 17 starts with $1,798,840 in career earnings.
To Honor and Serve compiled a 3-1-0 record in four starts as a two year old with wins in the Nashua Stakes (G2) and Remsen Stakes (G2).
As a three year old, he was 3-0-2 in seven starts with a win in the Pennsylvania Derby and (G2) and the Cigar Mile Handicap (G1).
At the age of four, To Honor and Serve won the Westchester Stakes (G3) and Woodward Stakes (G1).
With an B Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® ranking, State of Honor has the breeding to win this race and time will tell if he can step to earn graded-stakes honores.
Always Dreaming (4-1) comes into this race with 2-1-1 record in four starts for trainer Todd Pletcher including a win at Gulfstream Park on March 4. Here’s the video and chart call of his last race:
ALWAYS DREAMING was quickly in front, set a leisurely pace along the inside, and remained unchallenged and unasked to mid-stretch before coming under mild hand urging the last 70 yards.
Always Dreaming led from gate to wire and was never called on by jockey John Velazquez who gave him a hand ride around the track setting pitiful fractions and a final time of 1:53.44 for the nine furlongs.
Bodemeister, the sire of Always Dreaming, did not race until the age of three when he made six starts for Hall of Fame Trainer Bob Baffert, compiling a 2-4-0 record in six starts with $1,304,800 in career earnings.
He raced twice in the maiden ranks before finishing second in his third start, the San Felipe Stakes (G2). In his fourth start, Baffert shipped Bodemeister to Oaklawn Park where he was my pick to win the Arkansas Derby (G1). Bodemeister trounced the field, winning by an outstanding 9½ lengths. He then went on to finish second in both the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness Stakes (G1).
Always Dreaming has shown good speed in his first two races and he’ll need to pick up the pace in the Florida Derby (G1) in order to secure the win.
Three Rules (8-1) is a talented colt and he comes into this race with a 5-1-1- record in eight starts for trainer Jose Pinchin including a third-place finish in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2). Here’s the video and chart call of that race:
THREE RULES broke alertly to set the pace outside IRISH WAR CRY early, shook off that one after six furlongs and was confronted first by PRACTICAL JOKE, then by GUNNEVERA as well, fought along the rail inside PRACTICAL JOKE to the wire and yielded second grudgingly.
I like how Three Rules showed his competitive spirit in the stretch duel with Practical Joke.
Gone Astray, the sire of Three Rules, was a multiple graded-stakes winner that compiled a 5-5-4 record in 21 starts with $1,125,162 in career earnings.
Gone Astray did not run in any stakes races as a two year old and he was 1-0-1 in four starts.
As a three year old, Gone Astray was 3-3-2 in nine starts with wins in both the Ohio Derby (G2) and Pennsylvania Derby (G2). As a four year old, he compiled a 1-2-1 record in seven starts with wins in the Discovery Handicap (G3) and Withers Stakes (G3).
Gone Astray only made one start as a five year old and he finished out of the money.
In eight starts, Three Rules has only finished out of the money in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Stakes (G1) last November. However, nine furlongs may be beyond his optimum competitive distance.
Honorable mention goes to Battalion Runner (3-1) and Talk Logistics (30-1) who could potentially be a factor in the exotics.
Battalion Runner is the morning line second choice and he comes into this race with 2-1-0 record in three starts for trainer Todd Pletcher. However, according to a Gulfstream Park news release, Battalion Runner may skip the Florida Derby (G1). Here’s the video of his last race.
Talk Logistics comes into the Florida Derby (G1) off of a distant fourth-place finish to Gunnevera in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2).
Under the points system implemented by Churchill Downs to determine which horses will qualify to enter the Kentucky Derby starting gate, the winner of the Florida Derby (G1) will receive 100 points, the second-place finisher will receive 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 twenty Derby qualifiers:
2017 KENTUCKY DERBY LEADERBOARD
Ranking, total points, Trainer, Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
1. Thunder Snow, 100, Saeed bin Suroor, $1,621,063
2. Gunnevera, 64, Antonio Sano, $1,042,800
3. Tapwrit, 54, Todd Pletcher, $295,570
4. J Boys Echo, 53, Dale Romans, $255,000
5. Hence, 50, Steve Asmussen, $$481,129
6. Malagacy, 50, Todd Pletcher, $540,000
7. **Fast and Accurate, 50, $320,712
8. Girvin, 50, Joe Sharp, $249,800
9. Practical Joke, 34, Chad Brown, $766,000
10. Untrapped, 34, Steve Asmussen, $210,000
11. Classic Empire, 32, Mark Casse, $1,493,820
12. El Areeb, 30, Cathal Lynch, $330,000
13. Gormley, 20, John Sherriffs, $284,000
14. State of Honor, 22, Mark Casse, $119,564
15. McCraken, 20, Ian Wilkes, $285,048
16. Master Plan, 20, Todd Pletcher, $214,700
17. Iliad, 20, Doug O’Neill, $200,000
18. Sonneteer, 20, Keith Desormeaux, $186,000
19. Blueridge Traveler, 20, $95,000
20. Cloud Computing, 20, Chad Brown, $60,000
**Owner Kendall Hansen has indicated that the late supplemental nomination fee of $200,000 will be paid. Not This Time, retired to stud at Taylor Made Farm. Mastery is off the trail with a condylar fracture. El Areeb is off the trail with an injury to his right knee.
In addition to the current top 20, Churchill Downs has partnered with the Japan Racing Association to feature the Cattleya Sho Stakes and Hayacinth Stakes as two qualifying races in the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby. The horse with the most points from those races will receive an invitation to compete in the 2017 Kentucky Derby. Here’s the video of the Cattleya Sho Stakes. Here’s the video of the Hayacinth Stakes.
2017 JAPAN ROAD TO KENTUCKY DERBY LEADERBOARD
Ranking, total points, Trainer, Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
1. Epicharis (JPN), 50, Kiyoshi Hagiwara, $450,374
2. Mont Saint Legame (JPN), 40, Koji Maki, $90,154
3. Adirato (JPN), 20, Naosuke Sugai, $154,951
4. Caucus (JPN), 16, Hideaki Fujiwara, $35,850
5. Foggy Night (JPN), 5, Noriyuki Hori, $23,801
The connections of Epicharis have stated that they will skip the Kentucky Derby (G1) and may go to the Preakness (G1) and Belmont Stakes (G1).