It is considered by some as a prep race for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve, but in reality Saturday’s edition of the Curlin Florida Derby Presented by Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms at Xalapa is more like a showdown between Florida’s top Triple Crown hopefuls. The winners of the Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes, Holy Bull Stakes, Mucho Macho Man Stakes, Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby, and Sam F. Davis Stakes will all be on hand among a field of 11 that could produce a 25th Kentucky Derby winner from the 1 1/8-mile stakes.
CURLIN FLORIDA DERBY PRESENTED BY HIll 'n' dale farms at xalapa
1. Strike Hard (20-1 morning line odds): He hasn’t raced since rallying wide and belatedly for fourth in the Sam F. Davis, so he’s fresh. His workouts have been fine and a rail trip will be beneficial. He’s reuniting with Junior Alvarado, who was aboard for a second in the Mucho Macho Man, so an improved performance could be in the cards.
2. Classic Causeway (7-2): He already has a spot in the Kentucky Derby wrapped up, so a win is not of paramount importance. Yet this race should suit him perfectly and could be a barometer of his chances at Churchill Downs. If he can’t win at 1 1/8 miles here on a speed-favoring track from an inside post, his prospects for the 1 ¼-mile Kentucky Derby could dim.
3. Simplification (5-2): He’s been busy this winter and will make his fourth start of the year. He looked great winning the Fountain of Youth by 3 1/2 lengths in his last start and before that was second in the Holy Bull and won the Mucho Macho Man. He’s in great form and will have a huge say in deciding the outcome.
4. King of Truth (50-1): The truth is, he lost his last race on dirt by 42 lengths and his 50-1 odds seem a bit low.
5. Pappacap (10-1): His 3-year-old season has yet to match his 2-year-old campaign when he was second in the TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Presented by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance. He was a disappointing eighth last time out in the Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Ford and while he’s better than that performance, this seems like a tough spot to break a string of five straight losses.
6. Charge It (7-2): He’ll be tested for class here after breaking his maiden in his second try by 8 1/2 lengths. The time was fast and he’s trained by Todd Pletcher, who has a record six Florida Derby wins, but this will be his first trip around two turns and he’s facing a deep, talented field. If he can outrun Classic Causeway on the front end and hold off the closers to win this race in his third start, he’s definitely something special. Otherwise....
7. White Abarrio (3-1): He hasn’t raced since posting a decisive victory over Simplification in the Holy Bull in his 2022 debut. His works since then have been sharp and he has enough early speed to be a factor from the very start. He’s never been worse than third in four career starts and cannot be overlooked in this field.
8. Cajun’s Magic (30-1): He came up empty in the stretch of the Holy Bull but that was his first start in four months. There’s some room for improvement off that race but he’ll need to take a big step forward to be a factor here.
9. O Captain (20-1): After a pair of sprint races, he ran in the Fountain of Youth and rallied from 11th to finish third at 87.70-1 odds. That type of running style does not bode well for reaching the winner’s circle, but with Joel Rosario aboard he’s a candidate to sneak into the exotics.
10. Clapton (30-1): If you bet him, and he wins, you will definitely want to break out a guitar and feel wonderful tonight. But given that he’s 2 of 9 with a win in a state-bred allowance race and post 10, if he wins, he’s going to change the world and the Kentucky Derby outlook.
11. Steal Sunshine (30-1): With his only win against claimers and post 11, the chances are slim that he will steal this million dollar race.
THE PICK: Classic Causeway
LIVE LONGSHOT: O Captain
2022 Curlin Florida Derby Presented by Hill 'n' Dale Farms at Xalapa
April 2nd, 2022
- Owner / C2 Racing Stable LLC and La Milagrosa Stable, LLC
- Breeder / Spendthrift Farm, LLC
- Owner / Whisper Hill Farm LLC
- Breeder / Whisper Hill Farm, LLC
- Owner / Tami Bobo
- Breeder / France Weiner & Irwin Weiner
- Owner / Rustlewood Farm, Inc.
- Breeder / Rustlewood Farm, Inc.
- Owner / OGMA Investments, LLC, Iavarone, Michael, Iavarone, Jules, Marquee Bloodstock and Towell, Jr., Jack Hardin
- Breeder / WinStar Farm, LLC
- Owner / Brogden, Carrie L. and Little Red Feather Racing
- Breeder / Machmer Hall
- Owner / Miracle's International Trading, Inc.
- Breeder / Gary & Mary West Stables, Inc.
- Owner / Stonehedge LLC
- Breeder / Stonehedge LLC
- Owner / Daniel Alonso
- Breeder / My Meadowview LLC
- Owner / Arindel
- Breeder / Arindel