Gunnevera promises to bring a stout closing kick to the Kentucky Derby on May 6 and the late-running specialist will make his final prep in Saturday’s $1 million Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park. Trained by Antonio Sano, the son of Dialed In has been installed as 9-5 morning line favorite with regular rider Javier Castellano but will have to overcome the far outside post in the 1 1/8-mile race.
The Kentucky Derby qualifier offers points on a 100-40-20-10 scale toward a berth in the first leg of the Triple Crown.
Eleven sophomores were entered but only 10 are expected to start in the Florida Derby, with Battalion Runner being entered as an insurance policy for stablemate Always Dreaming. The Todd Pletcher-trainees share common ownership and Battalion Runner is expected to scratch for another major prep like the Blue Grass (G2) or Wood Memorial (G2).
Gunnevera posted last-to-first wins in the Saratoga Special (G2) and Delta Jackpot (G3) last year but finished a non-threatening fifth in his lone Grade 1 attempt. He opened 2017 with an encouraging second in the February 4 Holy Bull (G2) at Gulfstream and continued to show more four weeks later in the Fountain of Youth (G2), rallying powerfully to score going away by 5 ¾ lengths.
The chestnut colt registered an outstanding 102 BRIS Speed rating last time.
Always Dreaming is listed at 4-1 in his stakes debut. After placing in a pair of starts last summer, the Bodemeister colt returned from a lengthy layoff to crush maiden foes at Tampa Bay Downs, posting an 11 ½-length decision in late January. The dark bay exits a four-length wire-to-wire victory over entry-level allowance rivals at nine furlongs on March 4 and retains the services of John Velazquez.
Tampa Bay Derby runner-up State of Honor and Fountain of Youth third Three Rules come next on the morning line at 8-1. State of Honor can flatter Tapwrit after finishing one spot behind the well-regarded colt in the Tampa Bay Derby and Sam F. Davis (G3). Trainer Mark Casse removes blinkers and the Ontario-bred breaks from the rail with Julien Leparoux. Three Rules is drawn one spot to the inside of Gunnevera and promises to show speed from his outside post. The Florida-bred likes Gulfstream (5 wins) but the stretch out in distance looks like a concern.
Impressive Edge will make his two-turn debut for Dale Romans off a runaway eight-length victory over entry-level allowance foes at 7-furlongs. He is an early 12-1 with Corey Lanerie. Talk Logistics will try to improve upon a pair of fourth-place efforts in the Fountain of Youth and Holy Bull.
Unbridled Holiday, a maiden winner two back, will need to find form after a non-threatening third to Always Dreaming and is among a group of massive longshots along with Charlie the Greek, Coleman Rocky and Quenentos.
Florida Derby field:
|1||State of Honor||Julien Leparoux||8-1|
|2||Talk Logistics||Joe Bravo||30-1|
|3||Charlie the Greek||Leonel Reyes||50-1|
|4||Always Dreaming||John Velazquez||4-1|
|6||Coleman Rocky||Jose Ortiz||30-1|
|7||Unbridled Holiday||Nik Juarez||30-1|
|8||Impressive Edge||Corey Lanerie||12-1|
|9||Battalion Runner||John Velazquez||3-1|
|10||Three Rules||Luis Saez||8-1|