Florida Derby

4 graded stakes winners lead a talented field in this year’s Florida Derby. The Florida Derby, run at 9 furlongs, is a 100-point race for the Kentucky Derby — ensuring the winner a spot in the field. Second place, with 50 points, is a virtual guarantee as well.

At the top of the field is Audible. Unseen since his dominant win in the GII Holy Bull here in early February, all signs point towards a strong performance today. He brings the highest speed in the field (Bris) and was visually strong in that performance. He’s a NY-bred, but he cost half a million dollars, so that should be of little consequence. He runs for the Pletcher barn, whose 3YO horses are rounding into top form. He’s a strong contender and the one to beat. Likely will be a short price — perhaps well-suited as a single for the Pick 4.

Promises Fulfilled won the GII Fountain of Youth (FOY) here in early March. A frontrunner, he may have company from Strike Power or he may have the trip to himself. In the latter case — which happened in the FOY, he may be hard to stop on the lead and represents the biggest threat to Audible, who’ll likely have to make up ground on the outside.  Will be hard to get a fair price on this horses, whose merits are obvious.

Catholic Boy won the GIII With Anticipation on the turf in August, the GII Remsen in December and then finished second in the GIII Sam F. Davis in February. Like Audible, he gets a bit of a layoff coming into this race. He adds Irad Ortiz. He’ll likely track the leaders, who he rates just a slight bit below. He scares me with a real upset chance, although I think he’s not as good as Audible.

Strike Power lost in the FOY, but won the GIII Swale in this previous start. Given that the FOY was his first route, a second route portends improvement — although his trainer does not do well with the second-time route. The extra distance is a question, with Speightstown (a sprint sire) as his sire. He would need to turn the tables on Promises Fulfilled — something that’s possible for this lightly-raced horse. If he’s the forgotten horse (6-1 or higher), he’s a good bet.

Mississippi is a maiden winner with 2 strong allowance performances in January and February. He may have improved — which puts him right among the contenders — but he’s still in much deeper waters today. He adds blinkers, which threatens too much speed in the field. And he may get stuck outside from the 9 post. However, If you want to bet a longshot, this is your guy, though. Fast, improving, with top-notch connections.

Analysis: Simple and straightforward for me. It’s Audible — linking through a Pick 4. I’ll keep my eye on Catholic Boy as well and likely include him in the Pick 4, too.