The next stop on the Road to the Kentucky Derby series is Saturday’s $750,000 Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park, which will award Derby qualifying points of 100-40-20-10 to the top four finishers.
Unsurprisingly, the 1 1/8-mile Florida Derby promises to be one of the most intriguing Kentucky Derby preps seen so far this year with several legitimate prospects expected to start.
The likely favorite is Grade 1 winner Tiz the Law, who made an impressive 3-year-old debut in the Feb. 1 Holy Bull (G3). Bouncing back from his first career loss in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) in November, the Barclay Tagg trainee rolled to a three-length tally over Ete Indien. Tiz the Law earned a 108 Brisnet speed rating for the effort, which easily eclipses any stakes speed rating turned in by a sophomore so far.
Ete Indien flattered the form of the Holy Bull with his own 8 1/2-length romp in the Fountain of Youth (G2) when he overcame a wide post and seized an uncontested lead before the clubhouse turn. Ete Indien also earned a strong Brisnet speed rating of 103.
The highly-regarded Independence Hall is another probable starter for the Florida Derby. A dominating winner of the Nashua (G3) and Jerome over Aqueduct’s one-turn mile, Independence Hall proved second best in his two-turn debut in last month’s Sam F. Davis (G3) after rating close to a hot pace. His distance abilities will be tested on Saturday.
Another leading candidate is Gouverneur Morris. Trained by Todd Pletcher for the partnership of Team Valor and WinStar Farm, Gouverneur Morris won on debut by more than nine lengths at Saratoga last summer, and then finished a distant second to Maxfield in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland. In his only start so far this year, Gouverneur Morris captured an entry-level allowance at Tampa Bay Downs on Feb. 14.
Others considered likely for the Florida Derby include Candy Tycoon and As Seen On Tv, a distant second and third, respectively, in the Fountain of Youth, and the multiple graded placed Ajaaweed.