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'Rags Going for Riches in Steep Florida Derby

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Sorry for the lateish post all… Comcast internet AND TV was out for most of the day :’(

The day is finally upon us! The Florida Derby (I) has long been one of my top two favorite Derby preps (the other being the Wood Memorial) for putting on display some of the most fantastic Derby prospects in a race that is almost always a pleasure to watch. This year is looking pretty good again as Union Rags [pictured] makes his final start before the Run for the Roses against Todd Pletcher’s formidable El Padrino. A few other close runners-up to these horses as well as Gulfstream standouts like Reveron also fill up the gate in what should be a really great race.

$1 million Florida Derby (I) -3-Year-Olds. 1 1/8 miles on dirt at Gulfstream Park. Post Time: Saturday, March 31 at 5:40pm EST.

[Post Position, Horse - Jockey, Trainer - Summary, Opinion in italics]

1) Fort Loudon - Luis Jurado, Stanley Gold - A horse I’ve liked since last year who hasn’t been up to snuff lately, Gold is giving this handsome Awesome Of Course lad another go in hopes of landing the ideal trip. From the outside post and against horses who have soundly beaten him, I’m not so sure.

2) News Pending - Rajiv Maragh, Dale Romans - If you’re into buzz horses, this Harlan’s Holiday colt is your fella. He made a daring move to challenge Discreet Dancer in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (II) to finish second, but far behind Union Rags. Modest workouts, good connections, and an impressive last performance makes this one a top-notch entry to watch on the improving cycle. Let’s not forget Dale Romans sent out longshot Shackleford last year to nearly beat Dialed In!

3) Take Charge Indy - Calvin Borel, Patrick Byrne - His trainer decided to forgo the Risen Star (II) to save this A.P. Indy colt’s strength for this G1… was it worth it? We’ll find out. His only other start this year was a second to El Padrino in a Gulfstream allowance on off-track conditions and he’s been breezing nicely at Palm Meadows leading up to the challenge. I like this horse a lot, but given the gap of time and Calvin Borel’s record at Gulfstream, I’m not high on him to pose too enormous of a threat.

4) Neck ‘N Neck - Edgar Prado, Ian Wilkes - A horse who ran into a little bad luck in the Fountain of Youth (II), trainer Wilkes is giving this spunky Flower Alley colt another try to make the earnings grade. Has been breezing well at Palm Meadows and enters as a modest underdog with the very patient Prado aboard. Flower Alleys have been sneaking up to steal money lately. Maturity as well as ability is still questionable with only a second place in 3 starts this year.

5) Z Camelot - Joe Bravo, Dale Romans - Romans’ other entry is one of Ahmed Zayat’s ponies, and he has yet to break his maiden! By Smart Strike and out of a Deputy Minister daughter, he’s got the breeding but neither his finishes (a 4th and 5th in MSW this year) nor his works are all that promising. A very steep ascent for this colt… convinces me Romans will be using him as a rabbit looking at his point-of-calls for past races.

6) Union Rags - Julien Leparoux, Michael Matz - Regarded as one of the best three-year-olds in the country, this race is Union Rags’ to win. The Dixie Union colt was effortlessly striding home to win the Fountain of Youth last out and hopes to cap off his last prep here before the Derby. Easy breezes and trainer strategy indicate they’re taking it easy with him to wind him up here. Even if I wasn’t so hardcore Team Rags, it’s hard to find fault with him.

7) Bartolome - Jesus Castanon, Jose Garoffalo - Another colt being given a chance, this Toccet son was third in his only start this year over 1 1/8 mile at Gulfstream, bested some 6 lengths by Heavy Breathing. Modest works at Calder. Being pinched between two big colts who are sure to pummel him straight out of the gate or further down by the wire, not counting on seeing something miraculous here.

8) El Padrino - Javier Castellano, Todd Pletcher - Pletcher’s biggest threat to Rags is sure to be the second favorite, but an interesting one at that. A big, flashy son of Pulpit, he draws well to the outside of Union Rags and carries that horse’s only other rider in Castellano. While Pletcher did not have the horse to beat Rags in the Fountain of Youth with Discreet Dancer, El Padrino’s stretch drive has been good enough to knock out some stubborn horses and may pose a threat should Rags fail to get in the clear in time.

9) Reveron - Elvis Trujillo, Agustin Bezara - An early bird to catch fire on the Gulfstream Derby scene, the Songandaprayer colt led a 3-race winning streak before shipping to Tampa Bay’s Sam F. Davis where he finished a tough third last month behind the very good Prospective in second and Battle Hardened the winner. He’s been breezing super at Calder in 1:00 in change for 5 furlongs. With speed on top and distance on the bottom, Reveron makes for an unlikely candidate to contest the Derby but given his experience on the course and an excellent race record, I think he’ll run a good race.

Predicted Trifecta: 1) Union Rags 2) El Padrino 3) Reveron

Value Pick(s): Reveron

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