The 51st Florida Derby
All carry 122-12th Race @ Gulfstream
3. Harlan's Holiday...Prado...Every wiseguy guess says that this time he'll nail Booklet. I'm not too sure about that. Even though the perception is that poor trips have cost him the wins in both previous matches, the fact is that he has run his eyeballs out both times and couldn't get it done. Now he'll have to stretch it another 1/16 and he'll have more traffic to negotiate. Don't get me wrong, switch to Prado is a positive. But I think we all saw last weekend that off D'Amico to Bailey on Repent probably didn't make that BIG of a difference. Even if he can grind it out here, it will leave the tank dangerously empty for the BIG prize, now just 7 weeks away.
1. Nokoma...Velasquez...Not too concerned with that off effort in the Holy Bull. It was his first off the long layoff and at that point, the track here was as deep as it has probably ever been. In fact, he benefited strongly from a conditioning standpoint off that effort and bounced back nicely once they scraped it back to almost normal. Interesting to note that work times this week have been dropping noticeably. That probably means a lightning-fast surface today. One he's likely to relish. Pletcher stated that he probably went a little faster than he would have liked on Monday, but to me that means that this horse is sitting on "ready". Sire Pulpit loved this surface. What's not to like here?
4. Booklet...Chavez...The other half of the dynamic duo has probably progressed as far as he will for awhile. His last would be good enough to win this. Question is: Does he have enough left at this point to do it? I'm of the opinion that he pretty much has spent himself over his last two efforts here. I know it's dangerous to assume that he can't do it again, but I'm willing to use him underneath. I also believe the pressure will be much more intense this time.
5. Peekskill...Santos...Will like the quicker pace up front, but really appears much to slow to make an impact here.
1a. Smooth Jazz...Velasquez...Rabbit, or buried beneath his stablemate? I'm not sure that he isn't just as good as a lot of these and we as bettors might have been better served if he weren't coupled with Nokoma! The fact that he hasn't stretched out yet doesn't give me pause to think that he can't be a factor here. He's behind the eight-ball as far as Louisville is concerned, but I think he's a live wire here for this.
6. Puck...C.Velasquez...Steps way up here and that should be his undoing. He could sneak in for a piece but really looks overmatched in this spot. His price will likely reflect it. If you eschew class, then plunge away by all means!
7. High Star...Stevens...A real dilemma. If you believe his last, he'd be better served in an allowance on the under-card. If you throw it out, he's sitting pretty for this. Even Zito didn't believe his eyes as he scoffed at the photo saying, "the only people that don't think he won are Gulfstream". Meaning, I guess, the placing judges. He closed into a very slow pace on a very quirky track that was labeled wet-fast, only to just miss. I think I'll toss it. Stevens in to ride for the first time. A step forward from his opening race this year puts him right there.
8. D'Coach...Castellano...First time lasix and blinkers on this Shug trainee who looks very dangerous as well. Sire loved this strip and he blistered the track on Monday morning. First start since shipping down from the inner dirt at AQU after the Whirlaway. This could be just what he needs.
9. Personal Reward...Coa....Taking a BIG jump after following up the maiden win with an allowance score. I really don't believe he's quite fast enough. One of the few here who isn't. Stranger things have happened though.
10. Blue Burner...Bailey...Not the ideal post position I would have liked for my 2nd Kentucky Derby choice. (Saarland runs at Aqueduct on Sunday) I fully expect the Blue one to put in a monster performance here. Enough to move him forward for Louisville, perhaps not enough to win this. If he were parked in the 4 hole, I'd be all over him. He still must be used in exotics. Connections and breeding are stellar. Look out for him down the road!
Quite a tough race. In fact, damned tough! I don't have the greatest history in this race which makes it all that much tougher.
It is my belief that one of the newcomers will get this. The one I like best is Nokoma. He's fresh, he's fit. A win here further elevates the Remsen as a key race. Pletcher has done nothing wrong, as usual. The track as it plays now really suits his hand.
A tough call from here on out. Let's put Harlan's Holiday in the 2nd spot. He looks like he still could move forward off the last and should like the added distance.
Blue Burner is going to be a burner if he stays healthy. And I'm not talking a cash burner.The connections are top notch which should ensure this. Look out Louisville!!!
D'Coach is set to run a monster here and might even make the exacta. Lightly raced and quite capable.
I can't bet them all but High Star and Booklet merit consideration in exotics.
2. Harlan's Holiday
3. Blue Burner
Best of Luck everyone and enjoy the day!
© 2002 bBra