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We are back to the big-time derby preps with another trip to south Florida. Gulfstream Park will host the $1M Florida Derby which will grant 100-40-20-10 Kentucky Derby points to the top four finishers. The race will be run at 1-1/8 miles around 2 turns over Gulfstream’s dirt course. A field of 11 3yr olds will head to the gate hoping to springboard straight to Kentucky for the 1st Saturday in May.

Gulfstream does not card a lot of 1-1/8 mile dirt races, but of the most recent 5, none have been won wire to wire, yet we cannot ignore that inside and up front has been a good spot at Gulfstream for quite a while.

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The pace of this race should be dominated from the inside by 5-2 morning line favorite Hidden Scroll. Ridden by Javier Castellano, Hidden Scroll has had only 2 lifetime starts and posted quick early speed figures in both tries. In the Fountain of Youth he may have gone a bit too fast as the $1.20-1 favorite when he held the lead until faltering to 4th in the lane. I see his main speed competition coming from the outside post #11, Garter and Tie, who has also posted superior early pace figures (though never being on the lead). Garter and Tie will need to leave from his outside post to have any shot against this field. This duo may be joined by Maximum Security, a colt making his first attempt at a route distance after dominating three sprints for trainer Jason Servis.

Maximum Security is a mystery horse. He won a 7f optional claiming event by 18 lengths while under almost no urging. He was a 1-10 favorite in that race so I could question the competition, but he was able to put up a 100 Brisnet speed figure which is the highest of any contender in their last race. It was a 2nd consecutive increased figure in his 3 lifetime starts. Another move forward and he will be on his way to Kentucky.

3-1 morning line 2nd choice Code of Honor also has the ability to be up close but has been wonderfully schooled to use just enough to sit just off the leaders. While winning the Fountain of Youth, he was masterfully handled by John Velasquez behind a contentious pace and moved at the perfect time to gain the victory. The reason I can’t pick him to win this week is because everything went in his favor in the Fountain of Youth. While he posted the win, he would have been passed by Bourbon War if the race was a few yards longer.

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The horse I landed on is Bourbon War. Bourbon War just missed giving us a victory in the Fountain of Youth when he closed like a rocket only to miss by 3/4’s of a length to Code of Honor, who had a better trip and got the jump on him. I would love Bourbon War to gain an early inside position and save some ground before unleashing his furious rally.

Let’s take Bourbon War for the win and play a Bourbon War/Maximum Security exacta box. While I think Bourbon War is better, I’d hate to lose my bankroll being beaten by a horse like Maximum Security who has done nothing wrong in his career.