Gulfstream Park isn’t the usual destination for Horse Racing fans on any normal weekend. Yet it’ll take centre-stage on Saturday night as the Florida Derby kicks off the ‘Road to the Kentucky Derby.’
It’s going to be one long road this year, with the Kentucky Derby pushed back until Saturday 5th September.
There are still plenty of pointers to be gleaned from this 1m 1f contest, though, which was won in 2019 by Maximum Security, who went on to land the odds at Churchill Downs before being demoted down to 17th.
Here we take you through the runners and riders for the 2020 Florida Derby, which is live on Sky Sports Racing at 10:36 on Saturday night.
Barclay Tagg’s inmate looks set to go off as favourite and deservedly so after racking up three wins from four in his fledgling career so far, including in the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes.
His recent victory over Ete Indien at Gulfstream has been franked after the runner-up tasted success in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes, so he should be spot on as he goes over the distance for the first time.
There are question marks over Independence Hall coming into this. The mount of Joel Rosario was turned over at odds-on in a Grade 3 contest last time out, while the quality of his opponents last season remains sketchy.
Add in that 13 of the previous 14 Florida Derby winners had prepped at Gulfstream prior to the race, and it’s clear to see that history is against the Constitution colt too.
Favourite Tiz The Law should hold Ete Indien based on their Holy Bull form. But it’s impossible not to be impressed by the way Patrick Biancone’s charge subsequently won the Fountain of Youth Stakes by 8½l.
Could his progression continue on Saturday? He has the speed and arguably offers the value, although a bad post position and his questionable ability to stay after looking tired last time out count against his chances.
Love a stat? Then you’ll love this. Todd Pletcher, who trains Gouverneur Morris, has saddled four of the last six winners of the Florida Stakes, while jockey John Velazquez, who takes the ride, has won five of his own.
On the form, their hopeful has work to do. Another out of Constitution, the three-year-old has only run once in Stakes company when runner-up to potentially smart unbeaten colt Maxfield in the Breeders’ Futurity Stakes.
His return this season didn’t set the world alight, while speed figures of 111, 101 and 96 aren’t anything special either. Nevertheless, connections know what they’re doing in this race, and he has to be under consideration.
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An appropriate name given the current situation around the world but unlikely to get people up off the settee after an 8¾l defeat to Ete Indien last time out, form which he’ll have to reverse in some style here.
He’s bred to get the distance, and although a draw near the rail will help him, he’s unlikely to take the spoils.
Everything was set up perfectly for Ajaaweed in the Sam F. Davis last time out yet the Curlin colt made no impression and finished a 14l third.
He’ll benefit from the extended trip on offer here, but he’ll need a strong pace and a marked improvement if he’s to be involved at the finish. It seems unlikely.
Another for that man Todd Pletcher and perhaps a tad overpriced given his runner-up berth to Ete Indien in the Fountain of Youth. Granted he finished 8½l behind, but it was a run which did represent improvement.
With only one win under his belt in a Maiden at the start at the year it’ll be a big ask for him to go out and take a race like this. But if he continues to improve as a three-year-old, he could finish higher up than some expect.
History suggests seriously long-odds outsiders don’t stand much of a chance in the Florida Derby. Each of the last nine winners have gone in at under 10/1, with 2011 victor Ice Box at 20/1 the last to upset the trend.
That leaves the likes of Disc Jockey, Shivaree, Soros, Sassy But Smart and My First Grammy facing an enormous challenge at Gulfstream. If you fancy one of them, you can check out their odds on our sportsbook.
All odds and markets correct as of date of publication