Three Longshots to Add to Your Florida Derby Wagers
Going into last year’s Florida Derby, Always Dreaming was not an unknown horse, but he was making his stakes debut and just the fifth start of his career. With the favorite Gunnevera drawing a very bad outside post in #10, Always Dreaming went off at 5-2 and won the Florida Derby on his way to winning the Kentucky Derby. But in the Kentucky Derby Futures pool 3 just prior to the Florida Derby, Always Dreaming was a long shot, opening at 50-1 and closing at 42-1. While this year’s Florida Derby features a solid favorite in Audible (9-5) with trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey John Velazquez teaming up again like they did with Always Dreaming, he’ll have to finish 1st of 2nd to qualify for the Run for the Roses, as he has just 10 Derby points heading into his biggest race.
But there are plenty of contenders and even more capable longshots to consider.
The Florida Derby awards the top-4 finishers 100-40-20-10 points towards qualifying for the Kentucky Derby, with the top-2 securing a spot in the starting gate May 5 at Churchill Downs. Promises Fulfilled (3-1) won the Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream March 3 and has already secured his spot in the Kentucky Derby with 52 points on the Derby points leaderboard. Catholic Boy (7-2) has 14 Derby points and likely needs a top-2 finish in the Florida Derby. He won the Remsen (G2) in December and was 2nd in the Sam F. Davis (G3). Strike Power (4-1) is a speedster likely to be out front breaking from the rail, and he has 20 Derby points with a runner up in the Fountain of Youth (G2).
Moving to the double-digit long shots that are most capable of winning or making the money for a potential Derby entry, we like the look of Mississippi (12-1), but are not too thrilled with his far outside post of No. 9. Just like Always Dreaming a year ago, Mississippi is making his stakes debut and finished runner-up in a pair of allowance racing at Gulfstream since January. The son of Pioneer of the Nile for trainer Mark Casse has a shot in here if he can run back to his 111 Equibase speed figure (ESF) in his last race. He was also runner up by less than a length to the favorite Noble Indy in his January allowance race, and Noble Indy came back to win the Louisiana Derby. He’ll add blinkers to keep him more focused down the stretch in the Florida Derby, and you can still bet Mississippi at 50-1 odds to win the Kentucky Derby at Wynn Las Vegas. Similarly to Always Dreaming prior to last year’s Florida Derby, you’ll be holding a real value long shot for the Derby if he can finish top-2 in the Florida Derby.
Two other long shots to add to your Florida Derby win bet and vertical wagers are Hofburg (20-1) and Storm Runner (20-1). Those two are at least 150-1 in the current Wynn Derby futures market. Storm Runner is 2-2-1 in seven starts and won an allowance at Gulfstream Feb. 4 while earning a career-best 111 ESF. He finished 7th in the Fountain of Youth which reduces his appeal to many, but a closer look shows a very troubled trip having been steadied twice and he was less than 10-1 odds in that race. A bullet 5 furlong work and best of 42 that day on March 24 over the Gulfstream surface makes Storm Runner an overlay in the Florida Derby.
Hofburg is a son of leading sire Tapit. He has just two races to his credit and broke his maiden March 3 at Gulfstream with a 20 point jump in his ESF to 102. It’s another big jump to a Grade 1 race against much stronger runners, but trainer Bill Mott isn’t running him here unless he feels there is a pretty solid chance to finish in the money. A top-2 finish will be needed by Hofburg to make his next run at Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby. Is a breakout effort coming for Hofburg? We’ll call an Audible at the gate and throw a few dollars his way along with Mississippi and Storm Runner, looking to run down the leaders in the stretch.