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Florida Derby Picks

2012 Florida Derby Picks and Analysis

Road to the Kentucky Derby 2012

Classy Union Rags takes on fitter El Padrino in 63rd Florida Derby

Florida Derby, Gulfstream Park, Race 11, Saturday, March 31, 2012

3-Year-Olds, Grade I, 1 1/8-Miles, Dirt, Purse $1 million

Florida Derby Picks

1.      Union Rags

2.      El Padrino

3.      Take Charge Indy

4.      Reveron

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Florida Derby Analysis
Now the running starts. The first serious meeting between top Kentucky Derby contenders takes place on Saturday in the 63rd running of the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park, and while we’d like to pick a longshot, we just can’t go against the top two.

There’s no question who the most talented horse in the field is. Union Rags looked fabulous in his comeback on February 26, romping home under little urging from jockey Julien Leparoux to win the Fountain of Youth-G2 at Gulfstream Park by four lengths over News Pending. And he wasn’t even cranked up by trainer Michael Matz. The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile runner-up and early Kentucky Derby favorite, Union Rags makes his second start off the layoff in the Florida Derby and it appears he has only one serious horse to beat. That being said, he’s not proven at 1 1/8-miles yet and he’s probably not quite as fit as his main rival El Padrino – who is proven at the distance.

El Padrino makes his third start off a layoff for trainer Todd Pletcher and the road warrior has done little wrong in his 5-start career at five different tracks. He’s also got three major pluses going for him in the Florida Derby. He’s fitter than his main rival Union Rags, he’s proven at the distance, having run third beaten three-quarters of a length in the Remsen at Aqueduct last year, and he’s got heart. If Union Rags even thinks about tiring in the final sixteenth of a mile in the Florida Derby, expect El Padrino to make him pay.

In his last start El Padrino dueled through the stretch to win the Risen Star-G2 by a nose over Mark Valeski, but he definitely had the measure of that one at the wire. The race in El Padrino’s past performances that may be more telling is last year’s Remsen at the Florida Derby distance of a mile and an eighth. El Padrino was a few lengths back until deep stretch in that race, but surged late to finish third beaten only three-quarters of a length. This horse gives you the impression that he has that rare ability to find more late. He’s not flashy, and the unknown factor is his true talent level, but if he is anywhere close to Union Rags late you have to think he has an upset chance.

Take Charge Indy looks like he could be the dominant pace horse in the Florida Derby. He doesn’t need the lead but he has a sharp turn of foot when he needs it and he should be close throughout. In his first start off an 11-week layoff he prompted the pace going a mile and a sixteenth at Gulfstream Park on a wet track and succumbed to the charms of El Padrino late, finishing two lengths behind that one in second and looking like a tired horse. He now makes his second start off the layoff and should force the issue to the stretch before making his bid. The top two will quickly be breathing down his neck in the stretch however, and he’ll be hoping his pedigree and fitness can carry him further this time. He does have enough pedigree to get the distance, being by A.P. Indy.

The last horse we’ll mention in the 9-horse field is Reveron, but we’re just not sure he’ll get the distance. In his last start he pressed wide in the Sam F Davis-G3 at Tampa Bay Downs, made a good move to take the lead in late turn in that mile and sixteenth race; opened up into the stretch and tired late. He gets blinkers off for this and he should have enough pedigree to get the distance, so we’re not sure why he hung in his last. Perhaps it was the fact that he was facing better in the Sam F. Davis and he needed a race against classier company before showing his best. That angle is often lucrative; the problem is he moves way up in class again for the Florida Derby, having never faced anything remotely close to Union Rags and El Padrino on class.

The logical winner on heart, class and talent here is Union Rags, but the fitness edge goes to El Padrino, who is proven at the distance, and who has also displayed ample courage under fire. Union Rags certainly isn’t very enticing at 4/5 or less and if we can get 5/2 or better on El Padrino we might take a shot on him. We’ll also be boxing the top two in the exacta and using them first and second and first and third in the Florida Derby Superfecta with all and buying a few extra tickets with Take Charge Indy and Reveron second and fourth and third and fourth with Union Rags and El Padrino.

Good Luck!

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