2018 Florida Derby Expert Picks with Odds and Betting Predictions
The Florida Derby has, quite simply, become a factory for Kentucky Derby winners in recent years. Three of the last five Derby winners had won this race as their last outing before the big show - Always Dreaming last year, Nyquist the year before, and Orb in 2013. This success is nothing new, either - 20 Triple Crown race winners since 1955 also won this race, including five since Barbaro won the race in 2006. Recently, the race has also become a playground for Todd Pletcher - he has had three of the last four winners, including Always Dreaming last year, who ran the fastest Florida Derby since Alydar in 1978. Pletcher has a very live runner here in Audible. And he has a strong field of eight other horses to run against. In this topsy-turvy year on the Triple Crown trail, it is very possible that this race could produce another Derby winner. Here's how the field shapes up (horse, jockey, trainer, morning line odds):
Audible, John Velazquez, Todd Pletcher, 9/5: This horse won two of three last year, but he rose to prominence when he won the Holy Bull, the first of the two major Florida Derby preps at Gulfstream, back in early February in his stakes debut. He hasn't won since - not a particular concern since Pletcher loves long breaks between races for his runners. Enticed, the favorite in the Holy Bull, who was a disappointing fourth, came back to win the Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct next time out, so that flatters Audible. He likes the track, he's training nicely, and Pletcher owns this race. It's tough to discard him, but it's also tough to love the price.
Promises Fulfilled, Robby Albarado, Dale Romans, 3/1: In his lone start this year, this colt won the Fountain of Youth, the second of the two Gulfstream Florida Derby preps. And he ran in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes last November, a race that has evolved into an important powerful key race on the Derby trail this year. The horse has been at Gulfstream all winter, and he has trained fairly well on the surface - and won, of course. He's a factor as well, though the presence of Albarado in the irons is a big strike against for me.
Catholic Boy, Irad Ortiz Jr., Jonathan Thomas, 7/2: This is an experienced colt - this is his fifth graded stakes start. He won two of the three he ran in as a two-year-old, failing only in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf when he finished fourth. In his lone race this year in the Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs, he was in good shape down the stretch as the heavy favorite but was outkicked by a 10/1 runner and wound up second. His talent is real, and he got a nice jockey upgrade here, but I don't trust him enough to bet him to win.
Strike Power, Luis Saez, Mark Hennig, 4/1: This colt has run three times, and all have been at Gulfstream. He broke his maiden two days before Christmas. Then he won his first stakes try in the Swale in early February. He was the second choice in the Fountain of Youth and wound up second - but behind 18/1 shot Promises Fulfilled instead of heavy favorite Good Magic. His last work was spectacular, so he is in form right now. He's a factor, but I like other horses better - especially in terms of value.
Mississippi, Julien Leparoux, Mark Casse, 12/1: The breeding stands out here first of all. Sire Pioneerof the Nile sired Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. Storm Cat, Mississippi's damsire, not only was a legendary sire on his own right but was also the great-grandsire of American Pharoah. Those are not bad bloodlines to share. If you bet this horse, though, you have to believe in those bloodlines a lot, because there isn't a whole lot else. He is making his stakes debut after four starts. His only win was in a maiden race in his second start back in November at Churchill Downs. He has run twice at Gulfstream this winter in allowance races, finishing second both times. He's working well, though, and I like the connections and love the breeding, so I'll have him in my exotics - but not up top
Hofburg, Jose Ortiz, Bill Mott, 20/1: There is a real shortage of experience here. He ran once at Saratoga last August and then was out of action until he won his maiden race on March 3 here at Gulfstream Park. And that's it. But that race - and his breeding - was enough to get him this shot here. He is a son of Tapit, a sire that has dominated Derby entries in recent years. And Hofburg is a half-brother to Emollient, a special filly who won four Grade 1 races for Mott a few years back. Mott is very cautious typically, so if he thinks the horse deserves a shot then it probably does. The price is more than fair, and he should be a part of exotics plays.
Storm Runner, Tyler Gaffalione, Dale Romans, 20/1: This is the 'other' Romans horse, and he is easy to dismiss. He took four tries to break his maiden. His seventh start came in the Fountain of Youth, and he was a dismal seventh. He just isn't good enough.
Tip Sheet, Edgar Zayas, Stanley Gold, 30/1: This local horse has made 10 career starts already, which is kind of incredible. He has just two wins - in a maiden claiming and an optional claiming. His only graded stakes start was in the Holy Bull, and he was an outclassed sixth. He's not on this level.
Millionaire Runner, Jose Batista, Jaime Mejia, 50/1: Like Tip Sheet, this colt has already made 10 starts. He's done even worse, though - he has just one win and was seventh in his only graded stakes start. Outclassed.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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