Saturday’s 14th race at Gulfstream Park will be the G1 $1,000,000 Florida Derby. A field of 9 3yr olds will run 1-1/8 miles around the 2-turn dirt course. Only 2 horses in the field, Fountain of Youth winner Promises Fulfilled and 2nd place runner Strike Power, are in the top 20 of the Derby points standings. With a point breakdown of 100-40-20-10, the top 2 finishers this week will leapfrog right into the Derby fray.
The Florida Derby has a history of producing solid Kentucky Derby prospects. With 24 winners going on to win the run for the roses, it is the most prodigious of all derby preps. In 2017, Always Dreaming’s victory made the Florida Derby a springboard to Kentucky Derby glory in 5 of the last 12 years.
Gulfstream’s dirt course has been running fairly in terms of post position with all posts in races over 1 mile producing winners. Promises Fulfilled, from the #4 post, should continue his front running ways and set the pace, with several hopefuls looking to sit in just behind his speed.
Among those will be Audible, the 9/5 morning line favorite and horse to beat. Audible posted a stellar speed figure while cruising to a 5-1/2 length victory in Gulfstream’s G2 Holy Bull. With the team of Pletcher and Velazquez guiding him, Audible’s last 2 wins showed the classic stalking style along with an explosive and sustained turn of foot. My only concern would be with his March 24th workout where he was outworked by stablemate Vino Rosso, who recently may have fallen off of the Derby trail.
Other contenders include the aforementioned Fountain of Youth place runner Strike Power. This colt sat behind Promises fulfilled from gate to wire but I would not expect such an easy trip for both this week. And with odds around 3-1 for both I will have to pass.
Then there is Catholic Boy, who finished a game 2nd in the G3 Sam F. Davis at Tampa on February 10th. As the 3/5 favorite, he just could not get it done that day and finished a half length back.
The horse I landed on is the #5, Storm Runner. Trained by Dale Romans and ridden by Tyler Gallifione, Storm Runner finished a disappointing 7th in the Fountain of Youth, but after further review, he had an excuse. Storm Runner was keen to run early , made 2 inside moves to pass Promises Fulfilled on the backstretch, but was cut off both times. After being checked for a second time, he ran with the lead pack until entering the top of the stretch before falling back.
In his previous start, an allowance affair, he also ran greenly but was still able to win the race while posting a career best number. I am going to forgive his greenness in the FOY and take a shot with this 20-1 morning line. Let’s play Storm Runner for the win, and back it up with an exacta box including Storm Runner and Audible.