The Grade I, $1 million Florida Derby is set for Saturday at Gulfstream Park. The race carries 170 total points toward the Kentucky Derby, with 100 going to the winner. The 1 1/8-mile Florida Derby, which goes as the finale on a stakes-laden 14-race program, drew a field of 11. Approximate post time is 6:30 p.m. EST.
#4 BOURBON WAR (7-2) was a fast-closing second in the Fountain of Youth Stakes behind #9 CODE OF HONOR (3-1) when last seen. Irad Ortiz Jr. was taken to school by the veteran John Velazquez, who saved ground while rallying atop CODE OF HONOR while Ortiz Jr. and BOURBON WAR went six-wide turning for home. If the trips were flipped, BOURBON WAR could have easily reversed the 3/4-length margin of defeat. BOURBON WAR already has a win at Gulfstream, which he earned two-back, and should get a strong pace to close into once more. Ortiz Jr. maintains the assignment.
CODE OF HONOR and Velazquez will try to sweep the final two Kentucky Derby preps at Gulfstream. The Shug McGaughey trainee has recorded two bullet workouts in preparation for the Florida Derby. He’s also more versatile than BOURBON WAR, as he’s won while near the pace as well as far back. If he gets a setup identical to the one he got in the Fountain of Youth, CODE OF HONOR will be tough to beat.
#1 HIDDEN SCROLL (5-2, morning-line favorite) was last seen running fourth in the Fountain of Youth Stakes over this course. Both CODE OF HONOR and BOURBON WAR outfinished him that day, but there is reason to believe that things will be different this time around. After stumbling out of the gate, HIDDEN SCROLL was unwisely rushed up by Joel Rosario to set a breakneck pace accompanied by a huge longshot. He wasn’t able to sit the trip in just his second career start. Javier Castellano takes over in the Florida Derby, but because of the rail draw, he may have no choice but to be aggressive early with HIDDEN SCROLL. #7 MAXIMUM SECURITY and #6 HARD BELLE are unlikely to let the race favorite get away with an easy lead, so HIDDEN SCROLL is far from a sure thing on Saturday.
#10 UNION’S DESTINY (30-1) had a no-hope trip in the Fountain of Youth last time out. He was carried seven-wide into the first turn and was three-to-four wide on the far turn. The change of jockey to Leonel Reyes suggests a return to ‘DESTINY’s stalking tactics that helped him to three ITM finishes in his first three starts. UNION’S DESTINY will be pairing up starts for the first time since last August, when he broke his maiden.
The play: $1 exacta key box 4/1,9,10, $2 exacta box 4/9 ($10)
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