04/04/2017 12:47PM

Road to the Derby: Florida Derby analysis

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Barbara D. Livingston
Always Dreaming and jockey John Velazquez win the Florida Derby by five lengths.

Grade 1, $1 million Florida Derby, 1 1/8 miles, Gulfstream Park, April 1, 2017
(100 Derby qualifying points for a win, 40 for second, 20 for third, 10 for fourth)

Winner: Always Dreaming, by Bodemeister
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: John Velazquez
Owner: Brooklyn Boyz Stables, Teresa Viola Racing Stables, et al
Beyer Speed Figure: 97

ALWAYS DREAMING tipped his ability with a powerful victory against maidens at Tampa Bay Downs in January and, after an intermediate stop in a Gulfstream allowance on Fountain of Youth Day, continued his ascent with this dominating victory, his third straight, all at age 3 and all since moving to Pletcher’s barn. Always Dreaming has contending speed and finishes off his races well, attributes that should serve him well at Churchill Downs on May 6.

Always Dreaming showed good speed leaving the gate, had to check going into the first turn when THREE RULES crossed in front of him, then took up a stalking position just behind and outside of Three Rules. He remained in that spot down the backstretch and into the far turn, attacked Three Rules a quarter-mile out, with Velazquez looking about for threats, then bounded away. He was much the best.

STATE OF HONOR, who finished second, broke alertly from the rail but was purposely restrained into the first turn, and he seemed to resent that, as he tossed his head about. He came to hand turning into the backstretch and followed Three Rules, continued to save ground around the far turn, had to wait for an opening a quarter-mile out, got through inside and, while no match for the winner, finished well. This was probably his best race yet, but I’m still skeptical of his ability to get 1 1/4 miles, especially if he won’t settle in the opening furlongs.

GUNNEVERA, who was third, started from the outside post in the field of 10 but was immediately angled toward the rail to save ground while well back around the first turn. He started to pick up the back markers while three paths wide on the far turn, then finished well enough in a race where four of the first five spots went to horses who were forwardly placed in the early going.

IMPRESSIVE EDGE, who was fourth, broke well and took up a stalking position in fourth, three paths wide, around the first turn. He went into the far turn on even terms with State of Honor, ranged up three paths wide, came under an aggressive ride a quarter-mile out, but could not make any impact late. This was his first try around two turns after five sprints.

Three Rules, who was fifth, showed his usual good early speed and crossed over from his outside post to tighten things up on Always Dreaming while moving to the lead. He maintained a clear lead into and then down the backstretch, drifted slightly off the rail near the quarter pole when challenged by Always Dreaming, could not go with the winner, but battled hard before yielding late over a distance that seems beyond his range against top-level competition.

The rest were never any factor.

TALK LOGISTICS, who was sixth, saved ground in seventh around the first turn while racing all alone, was angled off the rail down the backstretch and advanced in the middle of the track, went into the far turn in the 3 path, but came under heavy pressure midway on the turn and could not sustain his bid.

COLEMAN ROCKY, who was seventh, raced near the rear of the pack in the 2 to 3 path around the first turn, was three wide on the far turn and five wide into the lane, but was always well back.

UNBRIDLED HOLIDAY, who was eighth, broke a half-step slow, was at the back of the pack outside Gunnevera around the first turn, fell back to last down the backstretch, saved ground on the far turn, but was never in the hunt.

CHARLIE THE GREEK, who was ninth, raced in midpack while saving ground around the first turn, began to be badly outrun heading into the far turn, and faded.

QUINIENTOS, who finished last of 10, raced in the 2 path while just outside Charlie the Greek around the first turn, began to tire heading into the far turn, drifted to the 3 path entering the lane and, like many of the trailers in this race, never was a factor.

Edward 6 days ago
There has been something wrong with Beyer scores for awhile now. 10-12 years ago you a=were giving out 112 to horses like Pleasantly Perfect and Milwaukie Brew for finishing third in races, and now horses run the same exact times from horses during that period and they get 95's. Sorry, but Always Dreaming's race was way better than a 97. 
Steve Gibson 5 days ago
Agreed.  The 97 Beyer is false and a joke.  If we assume a 1:47 and 2 time results in only a 97 Beyer,  then what Beyer is essentially saying that in order to run say a 108-110 fig Always Dreaming would have had to cover 1 1/8th in 1:45 and change.  No way the track was playing that fast.  AD likely earned a speed figure around 103-105.
Bob Carter 25 days ago
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John Stevelberg 25 days ago
Guess what needs to be determined is whether or not the all knowing Watchmaker was impressed ?
Nicholas Carraway 25 days ago
Monarchos
Nicholas Carraway 25 days ago
Monarch won his first race in mid-January. As for BSFs, the recent history doesn't support their importance (e.g., Nyquist, top route fig 94; Orb, 97; I'll Have Another, 96; Animal Kingdom, 94; Super Saver, 98; Mine That Bird, 81).
Gee Tee 25 days ago
BSF are a tool. FORMULATOR gives best and most info. It is a must for serious folks. CHROME FIGS were so much the best, he was the easiest single ever. IF YOU TOSS BEST AND WORST figs of all horses, you usually find out where they sit. CHROME was miles  BETTER than comp. We don't have that this year. bunch of high 80s to mid 90s.. derby winner will pay 40.00 or more..
Gee Tee 25 days ago
Monarchos was easiest gift ...songandaprayer went 44 for the half.. monarchos needed to just find room and easiest 23.00 horse ever..
Justin Weber 25 days ago
Tough to win derby when u break maiden in January and only beyered a 97
Nicholas Carraway 25 days ago
Monarch won his first race in mid-January. As for BSFs, the recent history doesn't support their importance (e.g., Nyquist, top route fig 94; Orb, 97; I'll Have Another, 96; Animal Kingdom, 94; Super Saver, 98; Mine That Bird, 81).
Justin Weber 25 days ago
Apollo 1882
Nicholas Carraway 25 days ago
Apollo didn't race as a 2-year-old. Always Dreaming did.
Stan Lottes 26 days ago
Hard to knock a horse that's won 3 straight, 2 of those at 1 1/8,  when you're looking at this year's possible field. Don't care if the GP surface was fast, this horse won the right way, ran his last 3/8s in 36 and change and his last 1/4 in 24 3/5 or so.  Won by 5 in hand and galloped out well.

As far as his Sire, Bodemeister, a little hard to call him distance challenged.  Second to I'll Have Another and Bodemeister's time in Derby was right around 202 flat. Also second in Preakness by 1 1/4 to I'll Have Another also in good time. 

Damsire is In Excess with good distance breeding.  Anyways, Always Dreaming looks dangerous in this field and is a must use on all tickets for top 3 spots, imo. 
Joseph Donato 25 days ago
you made some good points. i was and still am,in some kind of denial with this horse. i have preferences to tapwrit,oneliner and malagacy(but only for their impending races). i cannot get past  ALWAYS DREAMINGS march 4th race. i dont buy into all the excuses with the head wind the track condition, plus he beat nothing and in the race before at tampa was 1 mile and 40 yrds.(20k-maidens)   i cant gage the  time accurately. plus to boot, the official time for this race was no where to be found for 30 minutes or so after the race. GULFSTREAM  playing games again or they just incompetent. i have been there quite  a few times and some of the things they do boggle my mind.
Stan Lottes 25 days ago
I think we would know by now if the time for Fl. DERBY was inaccurate. Plenty of clockers etc time the race afterwards and then publish inaccuracies/discrepancies. As far as time time/beyers of his other distance races, I take those with a grain of salt. I watch closely to see how the horse did it. Yes that allowance race was slow but AD won as easy as could be.  He exploded in stretch and galloped out like a beast. 

I do have small nagging doubts as to whether AD might be a Bellamy Road.  I don't think so and comparing him to most of the likely Derby field, he has 5 races under his belt and many don't.  Still keeping an open mind. I suspect Mccraken will take the BG and is the main competition.  

Also, many of the old school/traditional Derby rules have fallen by the way side in the past decade or so.  Number of preps as a 2 yr. old, 3 year old, and total # of races.  The dosage # cut off at 4.00.  Look at the dosages of the last 2 Derby winners in Nyquist and American Pharoah and they would have raised eyebrows in the past.

Right now I'm sticking with AD and think he'll end up in my top 3 after all the Derby prep races have been run.
John 26 days ago
BODEMEISTER HAD DISTANCE LIMITATIONS. 
HIS OFFSPRING WON'T GET THE DISTANCE.
IN OTHER WORDS - HE IS A FLASH. 

onecitation1 26 days ago
IF BEING THE 2ND BEST DISTANCE HORSE OF HIS GENERATION MEANS HE WAS DISTANCE CHALLENGE, THEN I MIGHT HAVE TO CONSIDER ALWAYS DREAMING IN THE DERBY. 
Steve Gibson 5 days ago
2nd in the Derby and 2nd in the Preakness = distance limitations?  ROTFLMFAO