2019 Florida Derby Picks with Odds and Expert Betting Predictions
The Florida Derby is the most successful of all the Kentucky Derby prep races, with 15 horses having won both races. It has been particularly hot lately, producing three of the last six winners - Orb, Nyquist and Always Dreaming. And with the road to the Derby this year being as wide-open as I remember, the opportunity for the winner here to again be a big factor in Louisville certainly exists. An 11-horse field lines up this year for Saturday's race, which is the last race on a marathon 14-race card at Gulfstream that day. The top two horses will earn enough points to guarantee a spot in the Derby field, and the 20 points for third can get a horse over the top if they already have some points - it usually takes about 30 points to make the race. Here are the highlights of the top-heavy field (odds listed are the track morning line odds).
Hidden Scroll (5/2): This Bill Mott-trained son of Hard Spun has raced only twice, but he has had a tremendous amount of buzz surrounding him. He made his debut at the end of January at the same Gulfstream track as this race, and he crushed the field by 14 lengths. That eye-opening performance obviously drew immediate comparisons to last year's Triple Crown winner Justify, who also debuted late and won big. Expectations were through the roof for his stakes debut in the Fountain of Youth, but his inexperience showed. He locked into a suicidal pace duel with Gladiator King, a no-hoper who wound up finishing last. That was too much, and he wound up finishing fourth. He needs to avoid that happening here, and the pace should be more honest - though Jaime Mejia, who trained Gladiator King, has another horse in here that could look for the lead in Hard Belle - another son of Hard Spun, ironically. He just hasn't raced enough, but the talent is obvious, and he has to be a part of any bet construction. Javier Castellano takes over in the saddle for Joel Rosario, which is a very good thing.
Code of Honor (3/1): This horse won the Fountain of Youth, in part as a result of Hidden Scroll's help setting a crazy pace. Now he has to prove that he isn't just a beneficiary of circumstance. A big asset here is that John Velazquez is aboard. He has won the race a record five times, including the last two and three of the last four. This colt had the race of his life last time out, but he has been solid before that, and he's a factor here. He's flat out not as good as the favorite, though - I feel very confident in that. It's just a question of whether being better will matter here more than it did the last time the horses met.
Bourbon War (7/2): This is a son of Tapit, so he automatically gets attention on the Derby trail. He was second in the Fountain of Youth, again benefitting dramatically from the crazy early pace. He came from further off the pace than he normally does, but that suited the race shape. Now, in his third stakes race, he needs to prove that he actually belongs. He already has 20 Derby points, so a Top 4 finish here would be enough to get him to Kentucky. I expect him to get that, but I don't see him as a true win contender.
Maximum Security (9/2): The fourth of the big four here - at least according to the odds - is the toughest one to judge. He's from the second crop of New Year's Day, a brilliant colt who won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile in 2013 under Bob Baffert and then never raced again due to injury. It was a sad waste of potential. He has won all three of his races at Gulfstream by an average of 11 lengths. They were all sprints, though, and this is his stakes debut. His breeding is promising, and the talent is there. However, given the jump in both distance and class, we have to be cautious. He's a factor, but not the obvious one.
Current (15/1): Among the longer shots this is the one that stands out. First, I'm always a sucker for a son of Curlin and his damsire is Storm Cat. The breeding is incredible. And he's trained by Todd Pletcher, who has won this race five times, including four of the last five years. Pletcher had started off much slower than usual on the Derby trail this year, but there were two major prep races last year, and he won both of them. The stable is hot. This colt has mostly been on grass, and has a graded stakes win on the surface. He has tried the dirt only once, in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, and it didn't go great. He's training pretty well, though, and he comes from off the pace, so the race could suit him. I'm not convinced that he's good enough, but I'll probably throw a buck or two his way just for fun.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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