2014 Florida Derby Picks

2014 Florida Derby Picks and Analysis - Hoping Wildcat Red can steal it from Cairo Prince

Florida Derby-G1, Race 14, Gulfstream Park, Saturday, March 29, 2014

3-Year-Olds, 1 1/8-miles, Dirt, Purse: $1 Million

2014 Florida Derby Picks

1. Wildcat Red

2. Cairo Prince

3. General a Rod

4.East Hall

2014 Florida Derby Analysis

This year’s Florida Derby will be the classiest 2014 Kentucky Derby prep run to date, and it should be an excellent race, but you’ll have to take a shot if you want value for your money.

Cairo Prince is the obvious choice, Wildcat Red looks like the value play and East Hall could be the longshot for your superfectas.

Cairo Prince will be a short price in the field of eight coming off a romping 5 3/4-length win in the seven-furlong Holy Bull Stakes-G2 at Gulfstream Park on January 25. He’s won three of his four starts and his only loss came last year, notably going the Florida Derby distance of 1 1/8-miles in the Remsen-G2 at Aqueduct, which was run at a snail’s pace. He could be moving up in class slightly here, but the race should set up for his late run and he’s already proven he can sit close to a good pace. He does however, give up a fitness edge to a number of rivals in here, having made only one start this year.

On paper the pace of the Florida Derby looks like it should be replay of the Fountain of Youth-G2 that was run at Gulfstream Park on February 22. In that race, Florida Derby entrants Wildcat Red and General a Rod dueled throughout, with Wildcat Red gutting out a head victory over his more heralded rival. Rumors have it that General A Rod will try to come from just off the pace in the Florida Derby, leaving Wildcat Red to either go to the lead by himself or take pressure from trainer Todd Pletcher’s entrant Constitution.

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A perfect 2-for2, Constitution makes his first stakes start in the Florida Derby off an easy win in allowance race going 1 1/16-miles at Gulfstream Park on February 22. These are much tougher than the horses he defeated in that race, and despite the fact that he does have talent, we can’t play him against the likes of Wildcat Red up front, at least not this time.

We bet Wildcat Red in the Fountain of Youth because of the quick acceleration he showed winning the Hutcheson-G3 at Gulfstream Park on February 1. He added proven courage to his arsenal with his Fountain of Youth win and while many said he got lucky on a speed favoring track that day, he’s sentimentally tempting to bet on again at a nice price. If he gets the lead and slows down the pace he could prove very tough to get by.

The dilemma in this race is two key rider switches. Saez rode Wildcat Red to victory in the Fountain of Youth, but he is also the regular rider of Florida Derby favorite Cairo Prince, and he sticks with that horse. Additionally, Castellano, who rode General a Rod to a near miss in the Fountain of Youth and Wildcat Red to a win the Hutcheson, sticks with trainer Todd Pletcher and rides Constitution. What are the chances both Saez and Castellano are wrong about their choice of mounts?

Wildcat Red and General a Rod pick up good riders in Velazquez and Rosario respectively, and both will offer value on the tote board based partially on the defection of their previous riders.

Trainer Nick Zito saddles Spot in the Florida Derby and he has beat usin these races before, but we just can’t see it today and we’ll take our lumps if he does. Spot scoreda 2 1/2-length victory in the Swale Stakes-G2 going seven furlongs at Gulfstream Park on March 14, but for some reason his win in that race looked unimpressive. He moves up in class for the Florida Derby, but does have stamina in his pedigree and a bullet work coming into the race.

While Spot will be a decent price as a possible longshot, we’d rather go with someone like East Hall, who was disadvantaged by the setup of the Tampa Bay Derby-G2 in his last start. A horse opened up early in that race and coasted on the front end. The remainder of the field was either overmatched or fell asleep. East Hall was near the back of the pack early and never got untracked. Listed at 20-1 on the morning line, in his race previous to the Tampa Bay Derby, East Hall was a mild rallying fourth beaten 6 1/2-lengths in Wildcat Red’s Fountain of Youth. Matador is another longshot rallier for your Florida Derby superfecta, making his third start off the layoff and getting blinkers on. He’s listed at 15-1 on the morning line.

Being a sucker for heart, we’re going to take another shot on tough-guy horse Wildcat Red and hope he gets the lead by himself. If he gets the trip we’re looking for, and Cairo Price still runs by him easily, the Prince will jump to the top our Kentucky Derby list. We’re obviously hopingotherwise.

Put the gloves on Red!

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