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2015 Florida Derby Preview

2015 Florida Derby Preview

The final Road to the Kentucky Derby race on Saturday, March 28 will the Grade 1 Florida Derby. The other two races, the Group 2 UAE Derby and the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby, will have been settled by the time the Florida Derby goes off.

The Florida Derby will be at a mile and an eighth with 9 three year olds racing for a purse of $1,000,000. As with the other 2 Derby Preps on Saturday, the top four finishers will receive points towards the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard. The winner will receive 100 points, second place will receive 40 points, third place will receive 20 points, and 10 points will be awarded to the fourth place finisher.

The Grade 1 Florida Derby is carded as the 14th and last race on the Gulfstream Park card on Saturday with a scheduled post time of 6:48 PM Eastern Time. Free past performances can be found here.

1. Ami’s Flatter (8-1 Morning Line) – He started his career late in 2014 with a win in his debut at Woodbine going 7 furlongs. A move down south to Gulfstream saw him enter the Mucho Macho Man and finish second by 1 3/4 lengths. He was then shipped to Tampa for the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis, but he ran an even fourth. Despite that fourth place finish, he was sent back to Tampa for the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby where he ran a solid second behind runaway winner Carpe Diem. If the track is playing kind to off the pace types, he could sneak into the exacta.

2. Jack Tripp (20-1 ML) – He started his career on turf, but the turf career was short-lived after he finished sixth beaten 5 3/4 lengths. He then went to dirt for his next two races at Keeneland where he was second and then broke his maiden in his third start by 5 lengths. Since then he has been entered in four straight optional claiming races, but he has yet to finish better than third. Pass on his chances in this race.

3. Indianaughty (20-1 ML) – He started his career across the Atlantic in Great Britain with a third place finish over the polytrack at Kempton Park. He won his second start by 5 lengths at Linfield, again on polytrack. He was subsequently sent to South Florida and he made his turf debut a winning one by a head. Buoyed by that good performance, he was entered in the Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby and he failed to make an impact after battling for the lead. It is hard to endorse him here after that last race.

4. Itsaknockout (2-1 ML) – He has stayed here in South Florida for his first three races. He won his debut by a nose and then won an optional claiming event by 5 1/4 lengths. After those two wins, he went into the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth and finished second by 2 3/4 lengths. However, he was awarded the victory controversially after Upstart was disqualified and placed second. He will be sitting just off the pace in this race once again is one of the obvious choices to win.

5. Quimet (20-1 ML) – He started his career with back-to-back turf races, but failed to do much in those events and was given a nearly three month break. He came back to run on dirt at Gulfstream and won his comeback race by half a length in a $50,000 maiden claiming event and then finished second by 1 1/2 lengths in an optional claiming going a mile and an eighth. He then ran in the Islamorada Handicap, but was decimated by 16 lengths while finishing fourth. It is hard to like his chances in this spot unless all the favorites do not fire.

6. My Point Exactly (30-1 ML) – His first race came here at Gulfstream with a 5 furlong dash. He finished seventh by 6 1/4 lengths and then was switched to dirt where he was sixth by 7 1/2 lengths. He broke through in his third start when he was given a route of ground. He won the mile race by 10 lengths and was then shipped to Louisiana Downs for the listed Sunday Silence Stakes. That race was on turf and he prevailed by a neck. He has not been seen since that race on September 6 and will probably need this race.

7. Materiality (7-2 ML) – The second Todd Pletcher entrant comes in this race undefeated, just as his other horse Itsaknockout. He broke his maiden by 4 1/4 lengths on January 11 going six furlongs in the slop and was then given nearly two months off. The short break did not adversely affect him as he won the Islamorada Handicap by 5 3/4 lengths. He did that in his first start around two turns as well and is a serious threat to the top two choices.

8. Dekabrist (30-1 ML) – The most experienced runner in this race with 13 starts, he has gotten plenty of experience in stakes races. He was entered in the Grade 3 Lecomte on January 17, but finished eighth by 12 lengths and was then entered three more times between January 23 and February 28. He did not hit the board in those three races and he will probably be lucky to finish in the top half of the field in the Florida Derby.

9. Upstart (8-5 ML) – The morning line favorite has six career starts to his resume and he won his first two in New York bred races. He then entered the Grade 1 Champagne and finished second by 2 1/2 lengths. He parlayed that into a start in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile where he finished third. Since then, he was moved to Gulfstream and he won the Grade 2 Holy Bull by 5 1/2 lengths. He won the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth over Itsaknockout, but the stewards judged Upstart to have bothered him in the stretch and placed him second. He is a deserving favorite and must be included in any tickets.

Selections

This is a three horse race for the win and place. #9 Upstart has been ultra consistent in his career (6 starts, 3 wins, 2 seconds, and a third) while #4 Itsaknockout and #7 Materiality are both undefeated. It is hard to envision any of these three not winning and two of these horses not getting in the exacta. The only other real threat is #1 Ami’s Flatter if the pace is hot and the track is playing fair or kind to closers.

1. Upstart

2. Materiality

3. Itsaknockout

4. Ami’s Flatter

Check back on Saturday night for a recap of the Grade 1 Florida Derby.

Itsaknockout Wins Controversial Fountain Of Youth

Upstart (left) won the Fountain Of Youth but was determined to have impeded Itsaknockout (right) (Lauren King/Gulfstream Park)
Upstart (left) won the Fountain Of Youth but was determined to have impeded Itsaknockout (right) (Lauren King/Gulfstream Park)

Itsaknockout Wins Controversial Fountain Of Youth

The 2015 Fountain Of Youth was expected to be a good race and it certainly was. However, there was some controversy during the stretch run and the subsequent review by the stewards. In the end, the stewards determined Upstart, who finished first, impeded the finishing position of Itsaknockout, who finished second. Itsaknockout was placed first with Upstart being placed second by the stewards.

The race began with Bluegrass Singer going straight to the lead with Frosted right off his flank by a half length. Itsaknockout was third, Juan and Bina was fourth, and Upstart was sixth. The trio at the back of the field were Gorgeous BirdFrammento, and Danny Boy, who were both more than 5 lengths off the lead after a quarter of a mile.

There was little change in the running order on the backstretch, but the race complexion changed on the far turn and in the stretch. On the far turn Frosted took the lead by a length over Bluegrass Singer with Upstart another a length and a half back. Itsaknockout was still 5 lengths back in fourth with Juan and Bina in fifth. Gorgeous Bird, Frammento, and Danny Boy were still the trailing trio.

In the stretch, Frosted was still clinging to a half length lead, but Upstart and Itsaknockout were closing in. Upstart came out in the stretch and ran past Frosted with Itsaknockout right behind him. In deep stretch, Upstart drifted out to his right and took Itsaknockout with him. Frammento came from dead last, more than 15 lengths off the lead to grab third over Frosted.

There was an objection and an inquiry into the stretch run and after several minutes, the stewards disqualified Upstart from first and placed him second behind Itsaknockout. The rest of the field was unaffected.

The final order of finish was Itsaknockout, Upstart, Frammento, Frosted, Gorgeous Bird, Bluegrass Singer, Juan and Bina, and Danny Boy. The running time for the race was 1:46.28.

Itsaknockout paid $12.80 to win, $5.00 to place, and $4.00 to show. He was ridden by Luis Saez and trained by Todd Pletcher. Itsaknockout is by Lemon Drop Kid out of the Cherokee Run mare Stormy B.

For the win, Itsaknockout earned 50 points towards the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard, which puts him in second overall. Upstart earned 20 points for second place and now has 36 points total, good enough for third overall. Frammento earned 10 points, his first points in the Kentucky Derby prep races, and Frosted earned 5 points for a total of 13.

The road to the Kentucky Derby continues on Sunday with the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park.

2015 Fountain Of Youth Stakes Preview

2015 Fountain Of Youth Stakes Preview

The Grade 2 Fountain Of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Saturday is shaping up to be an excellent prelude to the Florida Derby five weeks from Saturday on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. The top four finishers from the Grade 2 Holy Bull Stakes return to run on Saturday as well as Itsaknockout who has been impressive in both of his starts.

The Fountain Of Youth will be contested over the main track at 1 1/16 miles with the Grade 2 event carrying a $400,000 purse. A total of 8 horses will be competing in this race, but the most important aspect is the points that will be awarded to the top four finishers. The winner will get 50 points towards the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard, second place receives 20 points, third place receives 10 points, and fourth place receives 5 points.

A win in this race essentially clinches a spot in the Kentucky Derby while a poor showing puts immense pressure on a horse to finish in the top two in their next start.

Below is a look at each horse in the race. Post time is scheduled for 5:30 PM Eastern Time. Free past performances for this race can be found here.

1. Juan and Bina (20-1 Morning Line)He ran fourth in the Holy Bull after attempting to come from off the pace. He was hard to handle for much of the race and had to go wide in the stretch. He now has the blinkers taken off in an attempt to settle him down. Prior to the Holy Bull, he was 5th in a listed stakes race here at Gulfstream and second in a listed stakes at Gulfstream Park West. Given the talent in this race, his ceiling appears to be underneath.

2. Bluegrass Singer (8-1 ML)He also ran in the Holy Bull, finishing third after prompting the pace. His comment line says no match, which is a perfect way to describe his race. He won an optional claimer and a listed stakes race prior to the Holy Bull. In 8 starts he has only missed the board once (his debut). He will be a solid price, but the waters are a bit deeper this race and he is looking at an underneath finish.

3. Frammento (30-1 ML)Yet another horse out of the Holy Bull, he was not a factor finishing sixth by 18 lengths. His only win has been at the maiden level (at Keeneland) with his next best race two back when he was second by 4 3/4 here at Gulfstream. That was against optional claiming $75,000 and his last race proved too tough of a test. Pass on his chances here.

4. Gorgeous Bird (6-1 ML) – Here is the first of three horses to not have run in the Holy Bull. He ran his debut race in August at Saratoga where he 6th in a 10 horse field. After a freshening, he came back 3 months later to win at Churchill Downs by a length and a quarter going 7 furlongs. Another break of 2 months gave him time to acclimate to the Florida weather. He came off that layoff to crush his foes by 7 lengths in an optional claiming $75,000. His bullet work on February 13 is a good sign and he could pull of the upset here.

5. Itsaknockout (4-1 ML) – We arrive at the lightly raced son of Lemon Drop Kid. His first start came here at Gulfstream on December 7 where he won a tightly contested race by a nose. He then came back on January 4 to crush an optional claiming $75,000 field by 5 1/4 lengths going one mile. It is hard not to like his chances here though he will have competition from the two horses to his outside. He is a must use on top in the exotics.

6. Frosted (5-2 ML)The second place finisher in the Holy Bull, he tried to run down Upstart but was not nearly good enough. He has yet to miss the exacta in five career starts, however, he only has 1 win from those five starts. The Holy Bull represented his first start in nearly two months and he will have the blinkers put on for the Fountain Of Youth. He is a logical top three choice in this race to win.

7. Upstart (8-5 ML) – We have the class of the field in the 8-5 morning line favorite. He won the Grade 2 Holy Bull by 5 1/2 lengths after pulling away in the stretch. Before that race, he was third in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and second in Grade 1 Champagne. Jose Ortiz should have Upstart in a good spot all the way around the track and he will be the one to beat as they turn for home.

8. Danny Boy (15-1 ML) – Here we have a horse that has made 3 of his 4 career starts on turf. His broke his maiden in his debut at Ellis Park by 3 lengths before finishing fourth by 3 1/2 lengths in his only dirt race – the Grade 3 Iroquois at Churchill. He returned to the turf course for the next start where he was second by a half length in the Grade 3 Bourbon at Keeneland. He went on to the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf where he had some trouble at the start and in the stretch. He finished 8th, beaten only 3 lengths, but has not raced since then. This is hardly the spot one wants to be in when making their second start on dirt. He will have a tough time against the horses here. Pass.

 

Selections

After an extensive look at this race, it appears #7 Upstart and #5 Itsaknockout are the top two choices here. #6 Frosted is getting blinkers on and could be closer at the finish. #1 Juan and Bina, #2 Bluegrass Singer, and #4 Gorgeous Bird could all figure in the exotics as well.

1. Upstart

2. Itsaknockout

3. Frosted

4. Gorgeous Bird

Check back on Saturday evening for a recap of the Grade 2 Fountain Of Youth Stakes.

Upstart Dusts Grade 2 Holy Bull Foes

Upstart crushed the competition in the Holy Bull Stakes (Coglianese Photos)
Upstart crushed the competition in the Holy Bull Stakes (Coglianese Photos)

Upstart Dusts Grade 2 Holy Bull Foes

Upstart crushed the 8 horses who raced against him and emphatically put his name on the list of top Kentucky Derby contenders. Upstart, ridden by Jose Ortiz, won by 5 1/2 lengths after drawing away in the stretch.

Even before the race, the complexion change slightly with the decision by the connections of Dom The Bomb to run in the Hutcheson Stakes in race 7. He was seen as a pace threat if he were to have run in this race, but instead he finished last in the Hutcheson after pressing the pace.

The Holy Bull began with Bluegrass Singer breaking well and taking the lead from the start. First Down was a length behind him and Upstart sat off his flank. Behind the trio were Decision Day, Frosted, and Juan and Bina. The trailing trio consisted of Keen Ice, High Noon Rider, and Frammento.

Bluegrass Singer continued to lead the field as they marched down the backstretch and on the far turn as well. Upstart moved up to second on the backstretch and continued his charge on the turn with First Down battling in third though he was struggling to keep up. Frosted was in fourth, Juan and Bina was in fifth position on the far turn, and Keen Ice was sixth. Frammento moved up to seventh, High Noon Rider was eighth, and Decision Day fell all the way back to last.

After being forced to go 4 wide on the turn and entering the stretch, Upstart took over the lead and pulled clear to win by 5 1/2 lengths. Frosted was no match for Upstart, but still was able to grab second over Bluegrass Singer who finished 7 3/4 lengths behind the winner. Juan and Bina finished fourth by 9 1/2 lengths.

The final order of finish beyond the top four was Keen Ice, Frammento, First Down, Decision Day, and High Noon Rider. High Noon Rider did not finish the race, as he was pulled up and walked off.

The final time for the 1 1/16 miles was 1:43.61. Upstart went off as the 2-1 second choice. He paid $6.20 to win, $3.20 to place, and $2.40 to show. He is trained by Rick Violette. Upstart earned 10 points towards the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard and the win gives him 16 points total thus far.

Frosted earned 4 points for the second place finish to give him 8 points while Bluegrass Singer and Juan and Bina both earned their first points of the Road to the Kentucky Derby.

The Road to the Kentucky Derby takes a week off before returning on Saturday, February 7 with the Withers Stakes at Aqueduct and the Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita.

2015 Holy Bull Stakes Preview

2015 Holy Bull Stakes Preview

The only Kentucky Derby Prep race this weekend will take place on Saturday, January 24 at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Florida in the form of the Holy Bull Stakes. This Grade 2 event will be 1 1/16 miles over the main track with 10 three-year olds entered. The Holy Bull Stakes represents the first of three races at Gulfstream that serve as Kentucky Derby prep races. The other two are the Fountain of Youth on February 21 and the Florida Derby on March 28.

The purse for this event is $400,000 and post time is scheduled for 4:34 PM Eastern Time. Showers are expected in the morning, however, the track should be in good shape come race time. As with all the races thus far on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, this race will feature points awarded in the format of 10, 4, 2, and 1 to the top four finishers respectively.

Let’s take a look at each horse in the Grade 2 Holy Bull Stakes.

1. Frosted (5-2 Morning Line) – This son of Tapit has never finished outside of the exacta in his 4 career starts, but three of those races were in the maiden ranks. His fourth career start was the Grade 2 Remsen where he finished second by a half-length and could not reel in the winner. In addition, that race was on November 29, but his workouts have been very good in this return. He is a horse that figures in this race.

2. Keen Ice (6-1 ML) – He too exits the Grade 2 Remsen and he finished a well beaten third 8 1/2 lengths behind the winner. His other start in graded competition was the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland where he finished 5th beaten 13 lengths. It feels as if he is a step behind the horse to his inside and will need this race as a tightener.

3. High Noon Rider (15-1 ML) – A pair of turf tries resulted in a sixth and third place finish at Belmont Park before he broke his maiden in an off the track affair at Aqueduct on November 19. He shipped to Remington Park for a listed stakes race where he finished third by 4 1/2 lengths over a muddy track. There are mixed feelings about him, but his best chances seem to be finishing underneath in the exotics at best.

4. Bluegrass Singer (4-1 ML) – He is far and away the most experienced horse in this race with 7 career starts (the next highest amount is 4 starts shared by 6 different horses). After a poor debut in August, he has finished on the board in last 6 starts and his last two starts are both wins here at Gulfstream Park. Both of those races came at the one turn mile distance and he went gate-to-wire as well. He should be able to control the race from this post and rates a big threat to the top 2 morning line choices if he is to run in this race (he is cross-entered in the Hutcheson Stakes, which is race 7 on the card).

5. Juan and Bina (20-1 ML) – He broke his maiden in his debut and subsequently was entered in back-to-back stakes races with mixed results. In his second race he finished second by 4 1/2 lengths before losing a duel on the lead with the horse to his inside last out. He ended up finishing fifth by 14 lengths and will have make a big step up to contend in this spot.

6. First Down (12-1 ML) – The Super Bowl is still more than a week away, but that does not mean one cannot make a hunch play on this guy. He broke his maiden at Belmont by three-quarters of a length in his debut. In that race he beat the rail horse in this race (Frosted). His next start was the Grade 2 Nashua and he was crushed finishing fourth by 10 lengths. He has not raced since then and his works have been rather pedestrian. His trainer, Tom Albertrani, is batting 0 for 35 this meet at Gulfstream. One positive is First Down will be on lasix for the first time.

7. Frammento (12-1 ML) – In four career races he has never finished worse than fourth, but he has not raced in a higher class than an optional claimer. His latest was a second place finisher to Bluegrass Singer, who makes an appearance in this race as well. He does have two decent works since that race and Nick Zito, but he will have a tough time contending for the win in this race.

8. Upstart (2-1 ML) – The morning line favorite in this race began in a New York bred maiden special weight at Saratoga before moving up to the New York Bred Stakes ranks. He won both of his career starts and then was thrown into the deep waters in the Grade 1 Champagne at Belmont. He finished second by 2 1/2 lengths and followed that up with a third place finish in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. His works have been very good leading up to this race and he is an obvious candidate for the win.

9. Dom The Bomb (30-1 ML) – The Illinois-bred son of Bring the Heat is an impressive 3 of 4 in his career. He broke his maiden in state-bred competition at Arlington by 4 3/4 lengths and then went to Keeneland and finished fourth by that same margin. A return to the Prairie State did him well as he won by 11 lengths in the Sun Power Stakes. His latest race was excellent as he crushed 11 foes in his first start at a route of ground while also going two turns. He won by 5 1/4 lengths in the Futurity at Hawthorne on December 13. He does have a front-running style, which will be difficult from this post. If he can rate he will have a chance at hitting the ticket. Do not expect near the 30-1 morning line provided. In addition, he too is cross-entered in the Hutcheson in Race 7. The connections of this horse and Bluegrass Singer are playing mind games to determine which horse will run in which race.

10. Decision Day (30-1 ML) – He sports a 2 for 3 record and his lone blemish was a second place finish to start his career. After that debut, he won a maiden race going a mile and 70 yards before winning the Coronation Futurity at a mile and an eighth by a head on November 29. Unraced since then, he has shown steady works in south Florida leading up to this race. Interesting horse for the exotics.

 

Picks

The picks for this race are a bit complicated because it is not known which horse between Bluegrass Singer or Dom The Bomb will run in the Hutcheson and both horses are intriguing from this point of view.

Despite the uncertainty regarding those two horses, the top players are still Upstart, Bluegrass Singer, and Frosted in that order. Behind those three, Dom The Bomb, Decision Day, and Keen Ice are the next trio. The final order of horses are High Noon Rider, First Down, Frammento, and Juan and Bina.

1. Upstart

2. Bluegrass Singer

3. Frosted

4. Dom The Bomb

5. Decision Day

 

Be sure to check out the recap of the Holy Bull Stakes on Saturday night.