If you’re looking for the best prep to find a Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve winner, look no further than the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park. With a roster of 24 Derby winners, the Florida Derby has produced more winners of the run for the roses than any other prep, topping the Blue Grass and Champagne Stakes by one – and that does not count the 2019 fiasco in which Florida Derby winner Maximum Security was disqualified in the Kentucky Derby after finishing first.
With a solid field assembled for Saturday’s Curlin Florida Derby Presented by Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm at Xalapa, Florida’s premier prep just might rack up No. 25 this year … and perhaps keep it this time.
1. Nova Rags (12-1): He’s been prepping in Florida, but on the other side of the state in Tampa. He was a good second to stablemate Candy Man Rocket in the Sam F. Davis Stakes and has not raced since that Feb. 6 stakes. In the interim, Candy Man Rocket was a disappointing 11th in the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby, but Hidden Stash who was third in the Sam Davis was second in that race. With trainer Bill Mott having seven weeks to get him ready for this race, he should not be overlooked.
JOCKEY: Junior Alvarado; TRAINER: Bill Mott
2. Quantum Leap (20-1): He’s making a quantum leap of his own, jumping from the maiden ranks to a Grade 1 stakes. He won at today’s distance but his 22.60-1 odds that day and a mediocre final time do not inspire much confidence.
JOCKEY: Miguel Vasquez; TRAINER: Ian Wilkes
3. Jirafales (30-1): He faced Greatest Honour in both the Holy Bull and Fountain of Youth Stakes and was fifth both times. Don’t see any reason why he should take a huge step forward here after going off at 106-1 in the Fountain of Youth.
JOCKEY: Edgard Zayas; TRAINER: Gustavo Delgado
4. Southern Passage (30-1): He rallied to finish second to the highly regarded Prevalence last time and should appreciate the longer, two-turn distance. If the pace gets too hot, he could benefit, but his 32.50-1 odds last time indicate it will be a tough uphill climb against a field as good and deep as this one.
JOCKEY: Corey Lanerie; TRAINER: Dale Romans
5. Known Agenda (5-1): He was the favorite in the Sam F. Davis but didn’t fire and finished fifth. He rebounded with a superb 11-length win after adding blinkers in a Gulfstream Park allowance-optional claiming race to become a top contender here. There are things to like and dislike, which make it hard to take a firm stand on him. He was third and fifth in two previous stakes races, but he did beat Greatest Honour in a maiden race and his trainer, Todd Pletcher, has five wins in this race.
JOCKEY: Irad Ortiz Jr.; TRAINER: Todd Pletcher
6. Sigiloso (30-1): Switches from turf to dirt in the Florida Derby, and a fifth-place finish against Florida-bred maidens in his lone main track try does not bode well for his chances.
JOCKEY: Leonel Reyes; TRAINER: Antonio Sano
7. Greatest Honour (6-5): A highly deserving favorite and the one to beat. He’s already won three races at this meet, including the Grade 3 Holy Bull and the Grade 2 Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes. He should be suited by the longer distance and figures to have a solid pace to chase. If he duplicates his last two starts, he will be very tough to beat.
JOCKEY: Jose Ortiz; TRAINER: Shug McGaughey
8. Soup and Sandwich (20-1): He’s making his stakes debut off nice allowance and maiden wins. His maiden win was the more impressive of the two and that was at six furlongs, yet with his pedigree, he’s an intriguing possibility for the exotics.
JOCKEY: John Velazquez; TRAINER: Mark Casse
9. Collaborate (6-1): He was a dazzling 12 1/2-length maiden winner who will be tested for class here. His final time in that mile win was impressive enough to make him a main factor here. It’s a tough assignment, but on a speed-favoring track like this one he surely merits strong consideration.
JOCKEY: Tyler Gaffalione; TRAINER: Saffie Joseph Jr.
10. Spielberg (4-1): You don’t see Bob Baffert-trained horses that often at Gulfstream, but when you do, you would be wise to back them. Spielberg was a game second to 2-year-old champion Essential Quality in the Southwest Stakes despite an awful start and a wide trip, impressing Baffert and earning the son of Union Rags a trip to Florida. Overlooking him seems a very risky proposition.
JOCKEY: Javier Castellano; TRAINER: Bob Baffert
11. Papetu (15-1): He was third in the Fountain of Youth so he merits attention, but trying to win from the outside post at this track and distance is a challenge that seems too formidable for him.
JOCKEY: Emisael Jaramillo; TRAINER: Antonio Sano
THE PICK: Greatest Honour
LIVE LONGSHOT: Nova Rags