by EMILY GULLIKSON
The $1-million Florida Derby is Saturday at Gulfstream Park, and the 170-point Kentucky Derby prep not only headlines a 14-race, stakes-laden card but also anchors the mandatory payout Pick 6 with an estimated pool size of $20-million-$25-million.
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#1 STRIKE POWER (4-1/NO VALUE) from the rail, he will not again allow another rival to cruise alone on the front end uncontested. Full expectations have him getting involved early to avoid the same Fountain of Youth scenario. That said, he may have saved himself second (best possible finish) allowing the other horse to roll and save place by not engaging. That gives some pause here as distance is still a question. A classy horse like him can win, and can fall into a trip, so I can’t completely count him out despite landing elsewhere.
#2 MILLIONAIRE RUNNER (50-1/TOSS) long way to go to live up to that name, he has some ability, but again looks overmatched in this spot.
#3 TIP SHEET (30-1/TOSS) another that has some distance questions to answer. In addition, his race in the Holy Bull was uncompetitive and makes him tough to back here.
#4 PROMISES FULFILLED (3-1/NO VALUE) he cruised last out after rivals allowed him an uncontested lead. Riders seem unlikely to make the same mistake again, and he should feel some pressure early. This horse has talent, and GRIT, but today’s task and added distance presents more of a challenge.
#5 STORM RUNNER (20-1/BELOW) he raced keen early last out and took up slightly, but it would be what we call TROUBLE-, something occurred but did not affect the overall effort. He will see another new rider in this spot. While there are things to like about this horse as an individual, have not seen enough to give the big push at this level of competition.
#6 CATHOLIC BOY (7-2/NO VALUE) ran wide and X_BIAS against the Tampa profile last out in the Sam F. Davis. He has talent, and based on his races and company/class lines he must be considered. The concern I have with him is lacking a real fast race on OptixFig, to warrant the short price. He must be left in the mix, but does not hold a real edge on speed.
#7 HOFBURG (20-1/VALUE) young lightly raced type. Has shown real ability in both starts, and I am taking a stab making him a top pick here. He was a colt to watch after the Saratoga debut. He backed that suggested ability up in his last start overcoming the layoff, outside post, and catching a decent field of maidens on the Fountain of Youth undercard. He lacks seasoning and that is a concern.
#8 AUDIBLE (9-5/LOGICAL) his freaky dominant effort last out makes this horse the one to beat. That 108 OptixFIG towers over this group. The REGRESS? even with the time since the race must be factored. If that last race is an outlier, he is not much stronger than others in here. Yes, he will be included in play, but some reservations to single.
#9 MISSISSIPPI (12-1/VALUE) on OptixFIG, he consistently runs “fast” races and that says a lot in a field that has a lot of in-and-out type runners. His OptixFIG have a nice gradual improvement pattern. He will have to work a trip from the outside post, and make it work with the addition on blinkers. Trip will be paramount. In addition, this is not an easy task for a stakes debut. Mixed feelings on this horse, but I am starting to come around.