Gunnevera looms large in Florida Derby

The Grade I, $1 million Florida Derby, the centerpiece event at the Gulfstream championship meet, takes place this Saturday. A field of 11 colts (10 if you count the likely defection of BATTALION RUNNER), led by Fountain of Youth winner GUNNEVERA, look for their share of 170 Kentucky Derby points, with 100 awarded to the winner. The 1 1/8th-mile Florida Derby will be the 14th and final race of the day at Gulfstream, with post time scheduled for 6:40 p.m. EST. Plenty of points will be available at Gulfstream toward FanXT’s Daily Fantasy Jockey game; be sure to study carefully!

#11 GUNNEVERA (9-5, morning-line favorite) draws widest of all but will be hard to beat here. Javier Castellano, who maintains the mount, guided the son of Dialed In (the 2011 Florida Derby champ) to a nearly six-length score in the Fountain of Youth last time out, albeit after taking advantage of a fast pace. He may not get the same kind of scenario here but the tempo should at least be honest with the presence of #1 STATE OF HONOR and #10 THREE RULES. With nary a stakes victory to mention among the entire list of challengers, GUNNEVERA clearly has a class edge. His last two speed figures also stand out, and the distance seems right up his alley.

THREE RULES (8-1) was a better-than-it-looks third in the Fountain of Youth, his previous start. That was his second try off a layoff and his first around two turns this year. He should be ready to deliver a peak effort in his third start in a form cycle under Luis Saez.

STATE OF HONOR (8-1) has been in the money in five straight starts, four of which were stakes. He’s set demanding paces over the Tampa circuit in his last two tries, and though he draws the rail today, he may try to concede the lead with blinkers off. His speed figures are competitive, but he does pick up six pounds here. STATE OF HONOR will be ridden by Julien Leparoux once more.

The play: $5 exacta 11/1,10 ($10)

DFJ analysis: Javier Castellano is a pricey but solid option on a Gulfstream card loaded with stakes. GUNNEVERA looks almost certain to at least hit the board in the Florida Derby. Beyond him, Castellano has two other 9-5 shots in All Included (Appleton Stakes) and Olorda (Orchid Stakes), and several other live mounts from 12 total starts.

Local leader Luis Saez has nine mounts on the program, all but two of which are 8-1 or below in odds. His best stakes mounts include Tequilita in the Gulfstream Park Oaks and THREE RULES in the Florida Derby.

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