Saturday’s Florida Derby Day card at Gulfstream Park is power-packed. It’s a 14-race program with 10 stakes races, many of which have attracted some of the fastest horses on the grounds.
The main event goes as the finale and anchors an all-stakes late Pick Four. I’ve put together a $24 play, and here’s how I’ll attack the sequence.
Spreading in the Sanibel Island
The Sanibel Island Stakes kicks off the wager, and it’s drawn 10 horses who will go two turns on turf. It’s a fun race, and while No. 1 Mischievous Kiss is a legitimate favorite (and I’m using her), I don’t think she towers over this bunch.
My top pick is No. 8 Ambitieuse, whose last race is a total throw-out. She rated behind a slow pace in the Grade 3 Florida Oaks and simply had no chance given that race shape. Her two-back effort in the Grade 3 Sweetest Chant, though, was very good. That came at this route of ground, and I think she’ll get a pace to chase in this spot.
In addition to Mischievous Kiss, I’ll use No. 2 Beechnut Trophy and No. 6 Shad Nation. Shad Nation is a very tricky read. She hasn’t run since November, but her debut was excellent. She beat several next-out winners that day, and it’s safe to assume something went wrong in the Chelsey Flower, because we haven’t seen her since. At her likely price, she provides enough value to justify inclusion.
A popular single in the Gulfstream Park Oaks
I’m excited for the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks. One of the most impressive horses of the meet is going postward in this one, and she’s my best bet of the sequence.
No. 7 Kathleen O. is 3-for-3 with two wins here this winter. Most recently, she overcame a traffic-filled trip to win the Grade 2 Davona Dale with ease. She’s improved with every start, has shown significant maturity and possesses a pedigree that hints two turns won’t be a problem. I think she’ll add another graded stakes win here on the road to the Kentucky Oaks.
Back to the turf for the Appleton
The Grade 3 Appleton has drawn nine older turf milers, and it’s a perplexing race. It doesn’t hit me as Grade 3 quality, and many runners have significant question marks attached to them.
I’m going four deep, and my top pick is No. 2 Scarlett Sky. I think you can toss both of his late-2020 efforts. His race in October at Keeneland was his first since May, and we haven’t seen him since his December effort, which implies something went wrong. His early 2021 form was very sharp, and he should benefit from what looks like a lively early pace.
I’m also using No. 7 Phantom Currency, No. 8 Carpenters Call and No. 9 English Bee. If you want to go even deeper, feel free. I thought this was easily the toughest race of the sequence, and those with deeper pockets than mine may want to hit the “ALL” button and hope for a price.
Whittling down the Florida Derby contenders
Four runners in the Grade 1 Florida Derby will take most of the betting money. They’re between 5-2 and 7-2 on the morning line, and no other runner is lower than 10-1.
I’m going three deep. While I’m using No. 2 Classic Causeway, No. 6 Charge It and No. 7 White Abarrio, I’m throwing out No. 3 Simplification. He won the Fountain of Youth well enough, but he chased White Abarrio in the Holy Bull. Additionally, I think Classic Causeway’s a legitimate Kentucky Derby contender, and Charge It’s working well enough to make me think Todd Pletcher has him cranked up for this one.
To extract any value from this race, I think you need to toss at least one of them. That’s what I’m doing here, and if Simplification proves me wrong, I’ll tip my cap.
The $24 ticket
- R11: 1, 2, 6, 8
- R12: 7
- R13: 2, 7, 8, 9
- R14: 2, 6, 7