The Florida Derby Is On The Horizon!

Gulfstream Park: Home of the Florida Derby

Yes, there are still two races to go in the first leg of the Derby Championship Series, before the points jump from 50 for a win to 100, but one of the most anticipated Derby Prep contests of the year looms large on the calendar. This weekend, the Spiral Stakes and Sunland Derby will take place, with the winners of each likely to gain enough points to secure a spot in Louisville on Kentucky Derby day. While those races are important, the Florida Derby will showcase some of the best thoroughbred talent that is fighting for a spot in the “Run for the Roses”.

Gulfstream Park will host the Florida Derby, which it has done every year since 1952. Past winners include such memorable competitors as Big Brown, Barbaro, Swale, and Spectacular Bid. Last year’s winner was Take Charge Indy, who was ridden by Calvin Borel, positing the third fastest time in the last 16 years. This year will feature such graded stakes winners as Orb, Itsmyluckyday, Revolutionary, and Bern Identity. Also hitting the dirt will be two-year-old champion and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Shanghai Bobby.

Ed Plesa’s Itsmyluckyday could very well be the favorite going into this race as he is coming off two impressive wins. He took the Gulfstream Park Derby on New Year’s Day and followed that up with a fantastic performance in the Holy Bull Stakes, where he bested Shanghai Bobby by two lengths. While other contenders have run in only four or five career races, Itsmyluckday is headed for his tenth start already and if race day experience means anything, he has it in spades.

Orb is trained by Shug McGaughey, and will definitely see some sentimental wagering come his way, as it’s been awhile since the Hall of Famer has had a horse that is as potentially ready for Louisville as Orb is. Orb struggled to get his first maiden win, missing out in three starts, but then caught fire and is now on a three race tear, including a Fountain Of Youth win over Violence last month. Revolutionary will likely draw interest from bettors as well. Todd Pletcher has a deep stable of Derby prospects and Revolutionary is ranked 4th in the latest DerbyDeals.com Top 5. He took the Withers Stakes on February 2nd and should be antsy to get back into competition.

Shanghai Bobby has taken a hit lately among prognosticators and fans. The main reason seems to be that he may not have the distance in him. Previous to his loss to Itsmyluckyday in the Holy Bull Stakes, Shanghai Bobby had won five consecutive starts, with each being longer than the last. Despite having two wins in the prep season, he has only 24 points and is in need of a at least a third place finish to get into position to make the Kentucky Derby, though 44 points wouldn’t necessarily guarantee it.

With the new points system in play, the second leg of the Derby Championship Series figures to be very interesting as it’s likely that a few really good horses are going to have to scramble to find points in April. The threshold seems to be around 40 points for making it into the Kentucky Derby. To this point in the schedule, only five horses can boast a total of more than 40, but there will be two more to add to that list after this weekend. We are now just days away from the most anticipated races of the season and it kicks off on March 30th with the Florida Derby!

The 2012 Florida Derby!

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