Friday, April 1, 2011

Formidable Field In Florida

FL DerbyTrophyIn the last ten years, the Florida Derby has showcased the talents of Monarchos, Barbaro and Big Brown. All three were brilliant winners weeks later in Kentucky. Empire Maker and Ice Box were successful in Florida but were second-best in Kentucky, while the swift Quality Road discovered he was superior at 1 1/8 miles and not one step farther.
This year’s Florida Derby field appears to be the strongest in years, and it would be no surprise if one of the contestants becomes a Kentucky Derby hero.
Soldat1The dominating conqueror of the Fountain of Youth, SOLDAT (War Front – Le Relais, by Coronados Quest) clearly loves the Gulfstream surface and is the best representative of his second crop sire. Soldat has a speed over stamina pedigree with a mix of dirt and turf attributes. His second crop sire, a son of Danzig, is a Grade 2 winning dirt sprinter while damsire Coronado’s Quest won the Travers Stakes. Second damsire Apalachee was a Champion sprinting juvenile in Europe. Soldat is the deserving favorite in the Florida Derby.
THAS1A surprising and distant third against Soldat in the Fountain Of Youth, TO HONOR AND SERVE (Bernardini – Pilfer, by Deputy Minister clearly needed the race. He has a pedigree well-suited to the Classic distances and the Bill Mott Trainee has been working spectacularly over the deep Payson Park surface and should be stronger the second time around.
Uncle Mo’s stable mate STAY THIRSTYStayThirsty  Photo David Alcosser (Bernardini – Marozina, by Storm Bird) strode out of his famous stable mate Uncle Mo’s shadow and easily beat a second-rate group in the Gotham Stakes (G-3). Stay Thirsty has a stamina oriented pedigree perfect for the Classics. He is a half brother to freshman sire Andromeda’s Hero and his precocious full brother Superfly. Stay Thirsty adds blinkers to keep him focused and we should get a good indication of how good he is in the Florida Derby.
Dialed In Photo CoglianeseThe Holy Bull (G-3) winner DIALED IN (Mineshaft - Miss Doolittle, by Storm Cat) regressed slightly in his Florida Derby prep race, but he still ran a strong race over a surface that plays against his running style. He’s a half-brother to Astoria Stakes (5F) winner Broadway Gold and turf stakes placed runner Mambo Meister. His dam was third in the Schuylerville Stakes (G-3) and Eliza, the second dam won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and was second in the Kentucky Oaks. Dialed In should get a strong pace to set up his stretch run.
SHACKLEFORD (Forestry – Oatsee, byShackleford Photo Coglianese Unbridled) Like Soldat, Shackleford had no response in the Fountain Of Youth after a good win previously against allowance company. Shackleford has a speed over stamina pedigree. He’s a half-brother to Alabama Stakes (G-1) heroine Lady Joanne and Grade 2 winner Baghdaria. His dam and second dam are both stakes winners. His sire Forestry has produced two dirt stakes winners at 1 1/8 miles, Discreet Cat and Etched. Shackleford and Etched have similar breeding as both have Unbridled sire line dams.
BC2BOWMAN'S CAUSEWAY (Giant’s Causeway – Victory Encounter, by Victory Speech) was thrown into graded stakes competition only two weeks after winning his maiden. The Patrick Biancone trainee has a stamina oriented pedigree and his dam won four stakes races, including the Vanity Handicap (G-1) at 1 1/8 miles. Bowman’s Causeway raced evenly against speedier rivals in his one mile prep for the Florida Derby. Like Dialed In, bowman’s Causeway is hindered by a speed favoring track, but if he wants to buy his ticket to Kentucky, he must overcome the bias and win here.
FLASHPOINT (Pomeroy - Two Punch Lil, Flashpointby Two Punch) made short work of a nice group of sprinters in the Hutchinson Stakes (G-2) and will try to stretch his front-running speed an extra two furlongs. Flashpoint has a sprinter/miler pedigree. So far, his second crop sire’s offspring have failed to win at 1 1/8 miles. Pomeroy’s best representative on the track is El Camino Real Derby winner Positive Response. Flashpoint’s dam won half of her eight starts, including a stakes race. She is inbred to the blue hen Raise You through her third sire Raise A Native and his full sister, Toast Of The Town, who is Two Punch’s third dam. The pretty gray Flashpoint will has the difficult task of breaking on the far outside.
ArchTravelerPhotoCoglineseA newcomer to the Derby trail, ARCH TRAVELER (Sky Mesa – Mettle, by Silver Deputy) has won his last two races, including a win at 1 1/8 miles. Five of his sire’s progeny have been successful in stakes at 1 1/8 miles; all have stamina-oriented female families. Silver Deputy is the damsire of four winners at 1 1/8 miles. Three out of four of Arch Traveler’s siblings of racing age are winners. His dam won three of eight starts sprinting over dirt and she’s a half-sister to a couple of Japanese stakes winners. Arch Traveler won’t get easy fractions in this race and may become a pace casualty.
How the track is playing: 67% pace setters/pressers have won this meet, with 38% going wire-to-wire. Outside posts are at a disadvantage with the first turn just yards from the starting gate. Weather should be beautiful as always and the track should be fast.
This year’s Florida Derby has a plethora of speed and there will be a likely traffic jam around the first turn and down the backstretch. The horses nearest the rail should have the best trip. SOLDAT and TO HONOR AND SERVE can handle a quick pace and still be strong in the final furlong. If DIALED IN doesn’t have to go too wide around the final turn, he’ll mow down the tiring field and should get a piece of it. STAY THIRSTY will get a real class test and it will be no surprise to see his nose on the wire first. If BOWMAN’S CAUSEWAY can get a decent trip, he could round out the exotics at long odds. SHACKLEFORD and ARCH TRAVELER have wins at 1 1/8 miles against lesser company. Their pedigrees indicate this is as far as they’ll want to run and their forward running styles could have them going the wrong way when the real running begins. FLASHPOINT is a sprinter and will be looking for an Oxygen tank after a mile.
#4 BOWMAN’S CAUSEWAY – longshot pick