February 26, 2024

Simplification slight favorite in competitive Florida Derby; Kathleen O. odds-on in Gulfstream Park Oaks

Simplification wins the Fountain of Youth Stakes (Photo by Coglianese Photos)

Florida Derby (G1) — Race 14 (6:38 p.m. ET)

Simplification, White Abarrio, and Classic Causeway were all dominant winners of Kentucky Derby (G1) preps in Florida this winter, while Charge It is as long on potential as he is short on relative experience. These four, plus seven others, are set to clash over 1 1/8 miles on Saturday in the $1 million Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park.

Simplification, installed as the 5-2 morning line favorite, enters off a 3 1/2-length victory in the Fountain of Youth (G2), but the Florida Derby has been a tough nut to crack for winners of the Fountain of Youth since 2010. Orb, in 2013, has been the only horse to win both races during that span.

White Abarrio, who beat a slow-starting Simplification by 4 1/2 lengths in the Holy Bull (G3) in early February, enters fresher than the other leading candidates by design, but spiked a fever last week, which briefly interrupted his training schedule.

“We’ll hope he shows up in the race. If he does, I think he’s as good as any of the horses,” trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. said.

Charge It, co-third choice on the morning line at 7-2, makes his debut against winners following an 8 1/2-length maiden win over a mile on Feb. 12. By stamina influence Tapit and from the family of champion Will Take Charge, Florida Derby winner Take Charge Indy, and multiple Grade 1 star Omaha Beach, Charge It looks to add to trainer Todd Pletcher’s record of six Florida Derby victories.

Classic Causeway, who swept both the Sam F. Davis (G3) and Tampa Bay Derby (G2) at Tampa Bay Downs, was re-routed to the Florida Derby after originally being penciled in for next week’s Blue Grass (G1).

“It just seems like he came out of the Tampa Bay race – the Tampa Bay Derby – so well that it seemed logical to me to just ship him down the road rather than to take him to Kentucky and maybe fight the elements up there,” trainer Brian Lynch said.

Longshots have been rare in the Florida Derby winner’s circle in recent years, but have routinely crashed the vertical exotics. Among those with stakes placings this season or last include O Captain, Strike Hard, Pappacap, and Cajun’s Magic.

The Florida Derby offers Kentucky Derby (G1) qualifying points of 100-40-20-10 to the respective top four finishers.

Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) — Race 12 (5:17 p.m. ET)

Kathleen O. has been installed an early 4-5 favorite to maintain her undefeated status in the $250,000 Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) over 1 1/16 miles.

Trained by Shug McGaughey, Kathleen O. is perfect in three starts, including a two-length decision in the March 5 Davona Dale (G2) over a one-turn mile.

“I’m looking forward to running her around two turns Saturday and see how that goes,” McGaughey said. “I think she’ll run around two turns. She’s never done it, but she’s out of an Arch mare and Flatter is A.P. Indy – that’s all two-turn dirt. I think it will be fine.”

The six rivals she faces are generally short on stakes experience. Except, that is, for Goddess of Fire, who has placed in three of four stakes appearances, including a half-length loss to Turnerloose in the Rachel Alexandra (G2) at Fair Grounds last month.

The Gulfstream Park Oaks is a Kentucky Oaks (G1) qualifier awarding points of 100-40-20-10 to its top four finishers.