03/28/2013 4:10PM

Florida Derby matches Orb, Itsmyluckyday, and Shanghai Bobby

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Tom Keyser
Orb most likely earned enough points for a berth in the Kentucky Derby with this victory in the Fountain of Youth.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Neither trainer Shug McGaughey nor owner Dinny Phipps are prone to contracting Derby fever. But there’s no doubt temperatures have been rising around the barn ever since Orb entered the Kentucky Derby picture with his come-from-behind victory over the odds-on Violence in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth earlier this winter.

Orb will attempt to take McGaughey to the Kentucky Derby for just the second time since 1989 when he meets likely favorite Itsmyluckyday and reigning juvenile champion Shanghai Bobby in the $1 million Florida Derby on Saturday at Gulfstream Park. The Grade 1 Florida Derby will be decided at 1 1/8 miles and highlights a spectacular 13-race program that serves up six other stakes races, five of them graded, including the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks for 3-year-old fillies.

[FLORIDA DERBY: Get PPs, watch Saturday’s full card live]

The Florida Derby offers 170 Kentucky Derby qualifying points, with 100 going to the winner. The race will be broadcast live along with the Louisiana Derby on a one-hour telecast that will air from 6-7 p.m. Eastern on NBC Sports Network. Post time for the card is 12:30 p.m., with the Florida Derby scheduled to be run at 6:19 p.m.

Saarland, who ran 10th in 2002, was McGaughey’s last Kentucky Derby starter, and his first since sending out Easy Goer and Awe Inspiring to finish second and third behind Sunday Silence in 1989. Easy Goer was owned by Ogden Phipps, Awe Inspiring by his son Dinny.

Orb, who is owned by Dinny Phipps and his first cousin Stuart Janney III, has made great progress for McGaughey since finally winning his maiden in his fourth start last fall at Aqueduct. A homebred son of Malibu Moon, Orb stretched out around two turns to register a one-length optional-claiming victory going 1 1/8 miles while racing on Lasix for the first time in his Gulfstream debut Jan. 26. He returned four weeks later to rally from near the rear of the field to upset Violence in the 1 1/16-mile Fountain of Youth, earning a career-best 97 Beyer Speed Figure and 50 Derby qualifying points.

McGaughey said after the Fountain of Youth that he doesn’t get Derby fever, but admitted, “I’ve been thinking about the Derby ever since I started rubbing horses back in 1971.”

“I’m not saying he’s got to win the Florida Derby,” McGaughey said. “If he were to go out there Saturday and come running, that would be fine. But he’s got to look like he belongs or we’re not going to run him in the [Kentucky] Derby.”

McGaughey said he couldn’t be happier with the way Orb is coming into the race.

“I was worried he might whittle away on me after the Fountain of Youth,” McGaughey said. “Instead, he’s gone the other way. I guess it’s just maturity, but he’s definitely going in the right direction at the right time.”

Unlike Orb, who is virtually assured of a starting spot in the Kentucky Derby as a result of his victory in the Fountain of Youth, both Itsmyluckyday and Shanghai Bobby still need big performances Saturday to qualify.

Itsmyluckyday earned just 10 points for his two-length decision over Shanghai Bobby in the Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes on Jan. 26 and none for his 6 3/4-length triumph in the ungraded Gulfstream Park Derby on New Year’s Day. A son of Lawyer Ron, he is owned by Trilogy Stable and Laurie Plesa, the wife of his trainer, Eddie Plesa Jr.

“If I could have drawn a map from the Holy Bull until now regarding his training for the Florida Derby, this is the map I’d have drawn,” Plesa said. “Things couldn’t have gone better.”

As for what he might do should Itsmyluckyday still not have enough points to qualify for the Kentucky Derby after Saturday, Plesa said: “Our first goal is to do what’s best for him. Sure we’d love to already have the points, but barring something crazy, I feel we should get them.”

Despite winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and being the reigning juvenile champ, Shanghai Bobby is not a certainty for a Derby berth just yet, with 24 points coming into the Florida Derby. Owned by Starlight Racing and Coolmore, Shanghai Bobby suffered his first setback in six starts when he proved no match for Itsmyluckyday after setting a contested pace in the Holy Bull.

Trainer Todd Pletcher said he’s not going to push Shanghai Bobby just to make the Kentucky Derby.

“If he runs well enough, he’ll get the points to get into the Kentucky Derby,” Pletcher said. “If he doesn’t, we’ll go someplace else.”

[ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays]

If any of the seven other Florida Derby starters wins the race, it will be considered a major upset.

The presence of Merit Man, runner-up in the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint, assures a lively pace, and trainer Bob Hess Jr. made no bones about his strategy.

“We’re going to go [to the lead] and see what happens,” Hess said.

Pick of the Litter was extremely impressive winning his maiden by 7 1/2 lengths making his first start on dirt, but will be taking a big step up into Grade 1 company with only two races under his belt.

Frac Daddy, who missed by a neck in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes to close his 2-year-old campaign, will try to rebound from a sixth-place finish in the Holy Bull, where he had his chances compromised when badly grabbing a quarter shortly after the start.

Mike Cooper More than 1 year ago
Really congrats to all? What a joke the DRF is. Updates are incredibly slow. This network is run by a bunch of 90 year olds to say the least. Get into the latest technology. Take a good look at you sport right now, it's dying. A long suffering fan.You're on the fringes of technology, don't you see it?
Susan Huart More than 1 year ago
Here's Johhnnyy! And it's his day. Yes. Orb!! Congrats to all!
Rogelio More than 1 year ago
Shocker: Shanghai Bobby ran quicker backwards.......the classic Pletcher style as the classics get closer.
Gerard Doise More than 1 year ago
SB needs to go back to the barn. He is not a router. Orb, just stay safe and win the derby. $20 win in the last two derby pools.
Kim Lee More than 1 year ago
Good Luck to everyone..Enjoy this day of RACING...
Mark More than 1 year ago
Successful Song flops for pleasa off two career tops back to back .....
Jason Kassa More than 1 year ago
If IMLD and Plesa are the real deal, he will win. If not, Orb and Pick of the Litter have a dream setup.
Mark More than 1 year ago
Hard for me to like any of the top 3 in here from gambling standpoint. Orb slow. And short price. Imld not sold he moves forward from last while other two will and odds on . Bobby distance and bc juvy has comeback weak .most likely longest of 3 . Gonna play picks spreading in here using 1,2,3,5,6,7. The more I look the more Frac daddy looks like a play at a solid 12 / 15-1 .
Charles Sakach More than 1 year ago
Here are the FPS ratings for the Florida Derby. The number in parentheses is the length of the race segment in furlongs. The number that follows is the average FPS adjusted for variant minus 44 FPS. The number that follows that is enclosed in pipe characters ( "| |") is the estimated FPS at the end of the race segment. Therefore, the last number is an estimate of how fast the horse was moving when he hit the wire. Shanghai Bobby: (2) 11.6 |55.4|,(2) 11.3 |55.3|, (2) 10.0|52.6|, (2.5) 7.5 |50.4| Previous: (2) 14.4 |57.2|, (2) 12.6 |56.1|,(2) 9.0 |49.9|, (2.5) 4.0 |46.1| Pick of the Litter: (4) 10.6 |54.5|, (2) 10.5 |54.4|, (2) 6.7 |46.9|, (1) 6.0 |53.0| Its My Lucky Day: (2) 11.3 |55.3|, (2) 11.4 |55.4|, (2) 10.1 |52.9|, (2.5) 8.2 |51.5| Previous: (2) 11.9 |58.6|, (2) 16.0 |61.4|, (2) 10.2 |47.1|, (2) 7.5 |56.0| Pontiff: (4) 10.7 |53.0|, (2) 8.1 |51.3|,(2) 5.8 |48.3|, (1) 6.6 |52.9| Frac Daddy: (2) 11.0 |55.3|, (2) 11.4 |55.6|, (2) 9.7 |51.8|, (2.5) 4.6 |45.4| Previous: (2) 9.9 |53.1|, (2) 8.8 |52.4|, (2) 9.7 |55.0|, (2.5) 9.2 |51.5| Orb: (2) 9.4 |56.4|, (2) 13.8 |59.3|, (2) 12.2 |53.1|, (2.5) 5.9 |46.8| Previous: (4) 8.7 |53.5|, (2) 9.9 |54.4|, (2) 10.0 |53.6|, (1) 5.0 |44.3| Indy’s Illusion: (4) 9.6 |52.8|, (2) 8.5 |52.1|, (2) 8.6 |53.2|, (1) 9.2 |53.2| Previous: (4) 8.9 |52.7|, (2) 8.7 |52.6|,(2) 8.3 |52.0|,(1) 7.2 |50.3| Merit Man: (2) 14.2 |57.7|, (2) 13.4 |57.2|, (2) 8.5 |47.8|, (1) 6.3 |52.8| Previous: (2) 16.1 |58.9|, (2) 14.2 |57.6|, (1) 7.2 |44.8|, (1) 5.2 |53.7| Are You Kidding Me: (2) 8.6 |52.5|, (2) 8.4 |52.4|, (2) 9.8 |55.1|, (2) 11.9 |56.8| Previous: (2) 10.3 |53.9|, (2) 9.7 |53.5|, (2) 10.1 |54.8|, (2.5) 8.0 |49.2| Narvaez: (2) 11.2 |56.4|, (2) 13.0 |57.6|, (2) 9.8 |50.0|, (1.5) 8.3 |54.6 The only thing I can say is I don't trust Itsmyluckyday. The longshot to fear is Are You Kidding Me. He may be a good one to go across the board with, if you have to play. I would not bet a whole lot on this race period.
B More than 1 year ago
I think I get this, but unless I am not understanding something, why Are You Kidding Me over Orb? I can't resist. Are you kidding us?
Charles Sakach More than 1 year ago
Not kidding. Last race considered a work out off the bench. Finished up fast to shake off the cobwebs. Huge speed duel brewing. Only something fresh, fit, and fast that keeps moving forward will take this. Meanwhile, I don't believe that Itsmyluckyday will run back to what he's shown. Also, if you look at Orb's closing FPS in his last race, he was just staggering home. The other longshot is Indy's Illusion, but I think he hurt himself last year in his Maiden win and should have won his last race. That's why I am not really enthused about him.
Charles Sakach More than 1 year ago
I also see that the much anticipated speed duel did not develop. Fractions and final time seem unusually slow. Appeared that the track had some degree of cushion. Does anyone know if the whole card went that way (on the dirt that is)?
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
So you're saying Orb has the fastest first 1/4, fastest second 1/4...then slows down??? B and S!!!!!!
Charles Sakach More than 1 year ago
In all fairness, I am not pulling these numbers out of a hat. Is it what it is. Orb won, right? I could say something about the pattern emerging in these numbers but for now, I will just keep it to myself. After all, in your opinion (to which you are entitled) it is just B and S...
B More than 1 year ago
I like Orb much like I did in his last race, but I primarily want to see him run a strong race even if he doesn't finish first. He is probably my early Derby pick and god knows Shug is due his Derby. Itsmyluckyday is very scary and Shanghai Bobby is as consistent as they come IF he can get the distance. Finally, Pick of the Litter is a very interesting long shot. Forget about the rest, but it is horse racing and anything can happen as it recently did in the Risen Star, but here's hoping that the true quality ones step up to the plate and prove themselves.