A massive day of racing in South Florida is headlined by the Florida Derby (G1), as well as a mandatory payout in Gulfstream Park’s Rainbow Pick 6.

The sequence features six stakes races and concludes with the featured event for 3-year-olds. Here are my thoughts.

Race 9: $100,000 Sand Springs S.

The Sand Springs S. features the return of #5 Newspaperofrecord for trainer Chad Brown. The 2018 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Filly Turf (G1) winner dazzled during her 2-year-old campaign, but burnt a ton of money as a 3-year-old losing all three of her starts. The daughter of Lope De Vega looks like one of several in this bunch that likes to be on or near the early lead, which should set things up for a runner from off the pace.

I love the chances of #2 Zofelle. The Brendan Walsh trainee has shown a tremendous turn of foot since arriving in the States. She came from well off the pace to win her initial three tries in North America, but the Helder Family Stables filly did not have things her way last time out in the Albert M. Stall Memorial S. at Fair Grounds. With a lot of early zip to run at and a favorable inside draw, I expect her to come from the clouds and get to the wire first.

Race 10: Orchid (G3)

#6 Mean Mary was allowed to set a pedestrian early tempo last time out in the La Prevoyante (G3) and won by five lengths in the end. On paper, it appears that the Scat Daddy filly should have things her way on the front end once again on Saturday afternoon. However, I would not be surprised if one of the other riders gets more aggressive this time around, knowing she is unlikely to lose if they let her lope along again.

With that in mind, I will also include #5 Gentle Ruler and #7 Cap de Creus.

Race 11: Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2)

This 1 1/16 miles event for 3-year-old fillies came up strong this year given the presence of #5 Spice Is Nice and #9 Tonalist’s Shape. Tonalist’s Shape got the best of Spice Is Nice last time out in the Davona Dale (G2), but things may go differently on Saturday.

Both fillies try two turns for the initial time and it is likely that Spice Is Nice will enjoy the added ground more. The well-bred daughter of Curlin also should benefit from the much-needed experience against winners late last month where she never appeared comfortable after a less than perfect beginning. I wish I was more creative, but these two look like the clear class.

Race 12: Pan American (G2)

There is no doubt that #9 Zulu Alpha is the one to beat in this 12-furlong affair and probably the most popular single in the 6-race sequence, but I have two concerns.

Firstly, there is no early speed in this race, which could compromise his chances, especially if he encounters traffic. Secondly, I question whether running in this spot was the original plan or whether the connections called an audible with all of the changes to the racing schedule due to the pandemic.

I have far too much respect for Zula Alpha’s current form to toss him, but I also am going to include and consider a Win wager on #1 Channel Cat. The son of English Channel draws favorably to the inside and has been at his best when he has been prominently placed. With no speed signed on I expect Joel Rosario to get aggressive out of the gate. If he makes an uncontested lead he will be tough to catch.

Race 13: Appleton (G3)

A number of the runners in this one-mile event over the sod exit the Canadian Turf (G3) where Gidu set an extremely hot early pace and eventual winner #10 Sombeyay got first run and had enough late to hold on. I bet on Sombeyay in that spot at 7-2, but am against him on Saturday in the race in the sequence that appears ripest for a double-digit winner.

I like #1 English Bee best, but I will also include #3 March to the Arch, #9 Louder Than Bombs, and #13 Mr Dumas.

Race 14: Florida Derby (G1)

I am not creative at all in the feature, but I do not think there is significant separation between the 6-5-morning line favorite #7 Tiz the Law and his main rivals #9 Independence Hall and #12 Ete Indien.

Tiz the Law has been impressive winning 3 of his first 4 starts, including the Holy Bull (G3) over this surface in early February, but he still has some quirks that concern me. He has found trouble of some sort in each of his four career starts and drew a tricky spot with several speed or tactical horses to his outside. If he gets a clean trip he will be tough to deny, but I give Independence Hall and Ete Indien a big chance to get the jump and capture the lion’s share of the $750,000.

Suggested Wager (20-cent Pick 6)

  • R9: 2
  • R10: 5+6+7
  • R11: 5+9
  • R12: 1+9
  • R13: 1+3+9+11
  • R14: 7+9+12

Ticket Cost: $28.80