FL Derby Always a Top Prep Race

FL Derby (Grade 1)- $1,000.000 Purse
GP- For Three Year Olds
One Mile and One Eighth on the Dirt
March 31, 2018

It’s time for the FL Derby, and there is not a prep race in our game that has a more illustrious history, in my opinion. It consistently has boasted the strongest fields of the prep season in terms of overall quality from top to bottom. The winner of the race last year, would be Shootfromthehip, and as we all know, he would go on to the win the KYD a month later. It was a race that he would win in a close photo finish over They All Laughed. In the KYD, They All Laughed was second again to Shootfromthehip. The 2016 field was absolutely loaded, and may have been one of the best prep races in recent memory, even though it did not feature our eventual KYD winner. Compress picked up the win in thrilling fashion, and one of the big stories in that race was the emergence of Admirals Aces, who finished fourth in what was at the time, a rather light resume. He took his dominance to the turf, and would win the BC Turf that year. Go back another year, to 2015, where the race was won by the great Unsuited, but a well known name also ran in the race that day: A One ran sixth that day, and would later win the PRK (he bypassed the KYD). 2014 saw a dead heat between Effortless and Z Jinxed One, but also in that race would be the legendary Niagra. Going back further, the FL Derby was the chosen prep race of the month for the great Five Fives, who came the closest to winning the TC then any horse has ever had in our game, and never lost to a male horse in the three TC races. This isn’t where the star studded list of names end, and the past winners board of this race should bring back memories for many stables in the game. This is the best prep race of the season. What will 2018 bring? We’ll determine that on Saturday, but history shows that one does not necessarily have to win this race to do some very special things in their careers. Let’s meet the field!

#1- People Doubted (Mb Stables, ridden by I Ortiz Jr)- As we start on the rail, we see a talented horse that so far has proven that he belongs in the KYD, based on his 22 KYD points and 12th overall position on that leaderboard. However, due to game restrictions, his fourth place position on the Mb Stables’ leaderboard means he still has more to prove in-house. Most of those points came from a second place, come from behind effort in the Grade 2 Risen Star last month, where he was tenth after six furlongs, and proceeded to pass everyone but the great Zombie City. A worthwhile effort, but it needs to be backed up here if for nothing else, the in-house competition for the three Mb spots in the KYD.

#2- Almost Illegal (Delta Farms, ridden by P Lopez)- This one goes into the category of “times running out if you think they are worthy of the KYD.” Almost Illegal has never attempted anything close to a stake, and has won just one of six in his career. Recently ran third in an 5 ½ furlong allowance, his only start of 2018. There are no works greater then a mile to look at, so the reason he is here is likely only something that the trainer can see. Delta Farms often rises to the occasion in races like this, but I’ll pass on him here.

#3- Psychotic Ruler (D J C Racing Stables, ridden by A A Gallardo)- The trainer has quietly put together an impressive three year old class in his own right, and owns two of the top six spots right now. No one else can say that! Psychotic Ruler does not have any KYD points to his credit, this after what looked to be a strong two year old campaign. After running in the BC Juvenile, and placing 8th, things have gotten one spot worse in his next two races, and he has fallen off the radar. Makes sense to give him this last shot, but the trainer won’t be too worried if he comes up short.

#4- Gene Chandler (Double Cross Ranch, ridden by K J Desormeaux)- The gelding has won five of eight starts this year, and has really seen his career elevate since being claimed by the trainer for just $12.500. After the claim, Double Cross had him on the turf for a little while, then moved him to the main track for the $100.000 Mine That Bird Derby at SUN, and he was up for the task in picking up the win. He will have to be up for this task as well, which is a large one given his opposition, but you have to like his recent works and the fact that he knows how to win.

#5- Controlled Lion (Our Athletes, ridden by M E Smith)- He’s picked up one point on the KYD trail, and will need a win or a second place showing in this race in order to make the big race. Trainer sent two to the KYD this year, but will need some late magic to avoid being shutout of this race. Since a win in the SA Juvenile back in July, Controlled Lion has not returned to the winners circle, and was a disappointment in the San Felipe. A month prior to that, his fifth place run in the Lewis showed more ability, and at minimum, that must be duplicated here.

#6- Lucky Phooey (Estero Farms, ridden by L H Colon)- Once again, Lucky Phooey will have my sentimental rooting interest, being by Phooeys Ideal, who took me to the KYD a couple years ago. He’ll be in new silks, as Estero Farms picked him up from LionKing Stables for $200.000 a couple weeks ago. He has just one win in seven career starts, but has consistently run well. That sounds awfully familiar to me. If Lucky Phooey follows in his sire’s footsteps, he’ll have a big race for KYD points this time around.

#7- Dream Controlled (Mb Stables, ridden J Talamo)- Both he and Controlled Lion are by Controlled Hook, but the dream is roaring louder right now. With 10 KYD points, Dream Controlled is 32nd on the KYD leaderboard, and given his trainer, and it will probably take a win in this race in order for the trainer to consider making him one of his three options for the big race. Not that he’s a bad horse. He’s a very talented horse, but he is presently 8th on the more important Mb Stables leaderboard right now. To win, he’ll need to forget about his race where he came from off the pace, and run like he did in the Grade 3 Withers, one would think.

#8- Slip Away (TwinTowersRacing, ridden by R Bejarano)- Last month, Slip Away picked up 6 points on the KYD chase following a third place finish in the Grade 3 Southwest, but the speed figure of 93 seems a little low for that kind of race. He was exceptional on the turf last year, winning the Summer Stakes, and then finishing third in the BC Juvenile Turf. If this race does not go well, it might not be much longer before he returns to the grass. He looks like he will need to better then he was in the Southwest, and I am just not confident that he will be among the top horses here.

#9- Illustrious (Mb Stables, ridden by F Pennington)- Once of several that Mb Stables has that have earned points in the TC Chase, but Illustrious will probably have to win the FL Derby in order to even be considered for the KYD. Second would give the needed points, but probably not the same type of confidence. He is just beginning his climb up the ranks, and after a good run in the Sham Stakes earned him points, he would not be a factor in the Risen Star. I would lean towards one of the trainer’s other entries in this field.

#10- Ferocious Gaze (Joshua Stables, ridden by J K Court)- We have seen Pretty Ferro become a top threat for the KYD, now we’ll see if his sire, Ferro, can get another one to accumulate points. Ferocious Gaze is a longshot here, as he is coming off his maiden win, against three other PA-breds in a turf sprint. That’s it for this one. A recent mile work to me was disappointing, so perhaps something was tested there and he will better. He is going to need to be, as clearly the trainer sees something that is not publicly visible.

#11- Tallmadge (Oquinn Farm, ridden by J R Velazquez)- This is one of those horses that seems close to beating the caliber of opposition he takes on here, but probably has to find away to get a couple of lengths quicker on race day. His efforts are good, including a third place finish in the DED Jackpot, and in the Fountain Of Youth, he rallied for a fourth place finish. Despite those results, he did not challenge the winner in either of them. Coming from off the pace seems to be his strategy, but he has won just once in eight starts. He’s a horse for consideration in the exotics, but not on top.

#12- Performance Artist (Serenity Stables, ridden by R J Albarado)- Horse selling park has played a large part of this horse’s career, as his recent sale from Estero Farms to Serenity Stables marked the fourth time he has changed hands in private sales, to just six races. It’s encourage that the price tag has gone up each time, and on the track he has been on the board in five out of six starts. He seems to be doing just about everything you would want him to, but he cannot seem to find a long term home. Serenity Stables was encouraged by his second place run in the Fountain Of Youth, and liked the 22 KYD points he has, but the post draw did not do him any favors. Let’s hope Performance Artist races in the Serenity silks for a long time.

#13- Splash Mountain- Scratched

#14- No Chill- Scratched

#15- Broomstick Spirits (Threshold, ridden by J L Ortiz)- Drawing into the field, Broomstick Spirits may need some supernatural powers to win this race. That’s not to say he’s a bad horse, but this is not a place in the starting gate you want to be on when you are a longshot in the field to begin with. Broomstick Spirits has just one win in four starts, and comes in to this race failing to beat a horse in the $150.000 Winkfield last month. The good news is that work times at a mile show considerable improvement over the last six weeks. I feel he’ll develop into a graded winner, but this won’t be his race to do so.

#16- Puissant Chef (Joshua Stables, ridden by J J Castellano)- It’s a shame that this one can’t exchange post positions with Ferocious Gaze, because I think he is the better horse, though both are longshots. Unfortunately, with the way things are in our game, you can’t talk about the horse starting in this spot in any other way. Outside horses are getting crushed right now. I really like how he worked at PRX, but he’s going to have to back it up on the track. He really hasn’t done that yet.

Prediction: 1-6-5-12

— NS

Categories: Grade I, STAKES ARTICLES

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