03/29/2015 11:32AM

Road to the Derby analysis: Florida Derby

Barbara D. Livingston
Materiality wins the Florida Derby on Saturday at Gulfstream Park.

Grade 1, $1 million Florida Derby, 1 1/8 miles, Gulfstream Park, March 28, 2015
(100 Derby qualifying points for a win, 40 for second, 20 for third, 10 for fourth)

Winner: Materiality
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: John Velazquez
Owner: Alto Racing LLC
Beyer Speed Figure: 110

MATERIALITY received the highest Beyer Speed Figure earned to date in a Kentucky Derby prep by gutting out this victory over UPSTART on a tiring, demanding Gulfstream Park surface. It was an aesthetically unpleasing race, for the leaders looked like they were going up and down through a final furlong that was run in 13.73 seconds and final three furlongs in 39.79 seconds. But they drew away from their rivals over a surface that was way, way slower than par, leading to the giant figure.

I have great admiration for what both colts have done. Materiality has gone from an unstarted maiden at the beginning of the year – he made his debut Jan. 11 – to perhaps the top-ranked Derby contender in South Florida. Upstart fires every time. He won the Holy Bull, was disqualified from a win in the Fountain of Youth in a controversial decision, and ran his heart out here again.

But regarding the Kentucky Derby, I will have great reservations regarding both. For Materiality, no horse has won the Kentucky Derby without racing at 2 since 1882. While many other so-called Derby rules have gone by the wayside in recent years, most of them were complete voodoo (i.e., where a horse was bred, a quirk of geography). This, though, is the one that always has caught my attention because it is asking a lot to cram so much development – unstarted maiden to Derby winner – into less than four months.

I think a horse will pull this off one year, but it will be a good horse against a mediocre bunch. As of now, this is not that scenario; this is a shaping up as a very strong Derby field. In addition, this had to be a hard race on Materiality, who was coming back on just 22 days rest. He’ll need all of the five weeks heading into the Derby.

As for Upstart, this was the second straight time he was locked in a pitched battle over a deep, tiring surface. While he got a career-best figure of 108, I’m concerned that the demands of these last two races, combined with this career top, may cause him to regress in Kentucky.

Watching the way these two colts train leading up to the Derby will be paramount.

As for the Florida Derby itself, Materiality broke well and stalked the early leader JACK TRIPP around the first turn with Upstart to his outside. Materiality and Upstart began to separate themselves from the field heading around the far turn. Materiality was under an aggressive ride beginning three furlongs from the wire, but he never let Upstart get past him. In addition, he raced through the lane on the rail, which was well chronicled as being the worst part of the track for the past week at Gulfstream.

One other thing to remember about Materiality: He was ridden in this race by John Velazquez, but he is the regular rider for Carpe Diem, who is scheduled to have his final Derby prep in the Blue Grass on April 4. If Carpe Diem wins the Blue Grass, my instincts tell me Velazquez would stick with Carpe Diem for the Derby, so Materiality would need a new rider.

Upstart, starting from the outside post in a field of nine, raced three paths wide around the first turn while forwardly placed. He went with Materiality while leaving the others in the dust on the far turn. He raced outside Materiality the entire race but though he tried valiantly, he never got past him. He was in the better footing through the lane, too.

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

Someone had to finish third, and some 12 1/2 lengths behind Upstart came AMI’S FLATTER. He broke from the rail and remained inside for much of the first turn before being angled to the middle of the track for the run down the backstretch. He raced four paths wide on the far turn, and while he never got within the same area code of the top two, he did finish seven lengths in front of everyone else. He is an Ontario-bred and will be a formidable presence in the Queen’s Plate.

ITSAKNOCKOUT, who won the Fountain of Youth via the disqualification of Upstart, suffered the first loss of his career while finishing fourth. He raced inside horses around the first turn after an apparent initial try by jockey Luis Saez to get outside was stymied by rival riders. He was eased back down the backstretch to get outside and wound up three paths wide, inside Ami’s Flatter, heading into the far turn but could not keep up with that rival, let alone the top two.

DEKABRIST, who finished fifth, trailed into the first turn, rallied outside horses on the final turn, never was a threat, and passed tired rivals.

INDIANAUGHTY, who was sixth, had to check behind rivals going into the first turn and was shuffled back to eighth. He was guided down to the rail down the backstretch, went around a couple of stragglers on the far turn, then was guided back down to the rail while never making an impact.

MY POINT EXACTLY, who finished seventh, raced four paths wide around the first turn while about four or five lengths behind the leaders, was in a good, stalking position heading into the far turn, but saw the effects of not having raced since September and having to compete over an exhausting surface take their toll.

QUIMET, who was eighth, raced between horses while three paths wide on the first turn, went down toward the rail down the backstretch, and was fifth entering the final turn but steadily faded.

Jack Tripp wound up last of nine after leading the top two during the early part of the race, but his Warhol moment ended by the time the field reached the far turn, and he retreated.

Nathan More than 1 year ago
Beware carpe. He beat garbage at tampa and meets more garbage at kee. That's 2 real EASY derby preps. Will be fresh at c.d. Same with dortman.. The others will be squeezed dry.
[removed] More than 1 year ago
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ShowMeThePROOF More than 1 year ago
You do not have a clear understanding of how the Beyer speed figures are computed. The time of a race is relevant only to the time and distance for all the other races that day at that track and how they compare to the track records. If you look at the times for the other races that day at Gulfstream, you will see some very slow times so the Beyer figure for Materiality is a valid number.
philcoforde More than 1 year ago
110 fig is SUSPECT
ShowMeThePROOF More than 1 year ago
I disagree
John Stevelberg More than 1 year ago
Who will Johnny V ride in the derby assuming the horses are sound - would guess Carpe Diem, but May 2nd is a long way away and he will probably wait as long as he can before making a choice.
John Murray More than 1 year ago
Still much too early to pick the Derby winner, I note animals who have lead change and distance issues, watch the track bias, pre Derby and day of, then wait until the post parade, watch the betting profiles, early/late money, the warm-up, see them loading in the gate, on their toes, nervous/calm, who's warm/lathered up, who has kidney sweat, and I must weight my betting factors, unfortunately I do risk getting shut out more than normal. A risk I'm willing to live with. Once the race is off, it matters not whether I have any money, or a lot riding, it is the challenge of handicapping, not just the profit/loss, that stimulates and rewards.
dean rosinski More than 1 year ago
Hope this is the Regina J. Murray I know from the Queensbury crowd. I believe you have been gleaning some habits of some of the punters there. Keep an eye on Bolo!!
StockPicker More than 1 year ago
Upstart and Materiality are both toss outs
Scott More than 1 year ago
I was willing to accept that Upstart wasn't fully cranked up for the Fountain of Youth and I definitely thought he was still the best on that day, but he's now managed to stagger home in 2 straight races. He was my pick to win the Derby and I might have even been able to overlook a 2nd place finish if both horses were finishing strong. However, Materiality only happened to stagger home slightly quicker than Upstart did. I went from thinking that the winner of the Florida Derby would be my top pick to tossing every horse in the race (and I mean they don't even get exotics consideration...unless everybody else staggers home in their final preps which seems unlikely). Tommy - good luck with Materiality! He was never going to be a top tier finisher in the Derby in my opinion. 3 Lifetime starts and all of them this year is just too much History to overcome. I might have considered him as a second or third tier exotics player had he actually been finishing strongly. Horses that can't finish up in a 9F race will not suddenly find more breath in a longer race! If you want to look at speed figures, then the MOST important one to consider is the final quarter mile. I don't care how tiring a track is...the Derby isn't just 1 furlong longer, it is a much harder race.
Debbie Gardner More than 1 year ago
Scott, so which colt do you think has came home the best, finishing up strongly, in the preps so far?
Scott More than 1 year ago
The top 3 on most everybody's list have kicked strongly in their preps: 1) Dortmund - Not only has he been finishing up, he's probably beaten the best fields of any Derby contender. If you like Firing Line, then you have to really like the horse that has beaten him twice this year. Once, he actually had to fight back in the stretch after being passed. 2) Carpe Diem - yeah, he hasn't faced anything special, but he's won the way he's supposed to. His pedigree and style seem right too. The real treat here is he is a REAL player who we might get 4 or 5 to 1. 3) American Pharaoh - This front runner hasn't faced much and will face a field in the Arkansas Derby that probably won't push him enough early to create any hope for a solid horse like Far Right to catch him. Still, he finished his last race strongly and I expect he'll shine again on Saturday. Firing Line is a nice horse who faced less than nothing in a public workout (Sunland Derby), so take him with a grain of salt, but I don't think he'll last in the Derby. I love the way International Star does what it takes to win. He seems to be able to accelerate and decelerate as needed throughout the race and if the pace melts down the top 3 (who all have shown the want to be on or near the lead), then he seems a good candidate to run them down. Otherwise, he probably doesn't have the speed to get it done. Far Right is another true closer who hasn't beat much, but could be a player if the race unfolds right. Ultimately, I love Dortmund's chances to make it 3 out of the last 4 Derby Winners coming out of the SA Derby. The post is his hurdle. Carpe Diem is very nice and I'm going to likely spatter International Star from top to bottom on my wheels too. Far Right needs points to get in, but I think he'll get second in the Arkansas Derby and depending on how he looks, I might include him from 2nd tier down. On a wet track, I might actually have to get him to the top tier. He won over a swamp his last out.
Nicholas More than 1 year ago
Maybe you should take a look at Materiality in the Islamorada, he came the last 3/8's in 36 seconds....no stagger there. Everyone that was at Gulfstream on Florida Derby commented that the track was dry and breaking away. That's the most tiring track to run on. It was the same way on F O Y day. Rick Violette blasted them good about the track condition. "you cant make up for it in one day". Referring to the fact that they didn't water the NEAR enough that week coming into the race.
Scott More than 1 year ago
Nicholas, I realize that Materiality had a much better race last time at the same distance, but it definitely deserves an asterisk: When you're running against no competition, you're supposed to finish up. Of course, he had a lot left in that race, because he really didn't have to run the whole way. When pressed even in a moderate pace, he wasn't finishing. Do you really think he'll get an easy trip in the Derby?
MsTBredRacing More than 1 year ago
No horse was going to "finish up" on that track Florida Derby day. I wish you armchair trainers/handicappers knew more about deep tiring tracks as much as you think you know about horse racing!
Scott More than 1 year ago
I will eat my words if Upstart or Materiality show up big on Derby Day, but trust me, I've been watching racing for many years and know a little something. These two ARE tosses.
Robin Pati More than 1 year ago
110 Beyer lol. He better put down the pipe. That crew can't go 1 1/4 in the back of a van
tommy More than 1 year ago
Please bet heavy in the kentucky derby!! I need every cent I cAn take from the public !!! Il be the only winner !!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
and who is the winner... pick only one horse to win.!!!!!!!
Chris Lowe More than 1 year ago
Tommy can't, I think he has upward of fifteen horses in future bets and will have to spread like Jif peanut butter on Derby day.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
yup...and then he will say "See I told you so I liked the winner" I wonder how much he loses on a weekly basis. Seems to me that he thinks in order to get an exacta you need to have 6 horses wheeled on top of 10 more at a cost of $120 for a $2 payoff. That gets pretty expensive when the payoff is only $48
Jeff Wilson More than 1 year ago
All about cashing tickets for that troll.
Jim Fields More than 1 year ago
Billy Spathanas More than 1 year ago
To all racing fans and gambling fools, some of us look at times, some of us looks at speed and rag figs. Florida Derby winner goes in 152;30 for the 1 1/8th earns a 110 beyer Louisianna Derby winner goes 150.20 for the 1 1/8th earns a 98 beyer Whats the difference and whos a better horse ?
J.L. Boey More than 1 year ago
You're the most special because you look at raw times. I hope you like the compliment.
Billy Spathanas More than 1 year ago
Nope , not me....
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Track Variance As for the better horse Ask me after they cross the finish line High On Poker
tommy More than 1 year ago
MAteriality is better since he ran 1 1/8 @ 1:49 !!!!!! International star is a star and is also good to round out exotics such as exacta , trifecta, and superfecta !!! Firing line breezing 1 1/8 @ 1:47 is amazing and muntahij breezing 1 3/16 @ 1:58 on dirt is amazing !!!!! Not to mention materiality running 6 furlong on sloppy track @ 1:10 which explains he is well rounded, has speed, strength , and endurance, all the ingredients needed to win kentucky derby !!!!!!!
Chris Lowe More than 1 year ago
My grandma might crack 1:50 on Sunland's Bonneville salt flats.
Slew32A More than 1 year ago
The Gulfstream strip has been slow the last month.
jim lefferts More than 1 year ago
Louisiana-bred maidens ran 6f in 1:10.04 on the FG strip. Some of the best older horses in the country went 1:24.61 to 7f and maidens 1:27.32 to that distance. The GP strip was at least 3 seconds slower than FG on Saturday likely more than that to 9F.
Nathan More than 1 year ago
G.p. like running 1 1/8 on beach sand F.g. like concrete Time only counts in jail.