03/28/2013 12:34PM

Weekend Warrior for March 30: Picks for Florida Derby, Louisiana Derby, Appleton

Tom Keyser
Orb may get the same favorable pace setup that helped him win the Fountain of Youth.

As if Saturday wasn’t big enough with Dubai World Cup Day, it is also a huge day at both Gulfstream Park and Fair Grounds. The Grade 1, $1 million Florida Derby tops a card at Gulfstream that also includes five other graded stakes, most notably the Grade 2, $300,000 Gulfstream Park Oaks. And the Grade 2, $1 million Louisiana Derby is the feature on a Fair Grounds program that also includes three other Grade 2 events, the richest of those being the $500,000 Fair Grounds Oaks.

Florida Derby

As one who liked Orb when he won the Fountain of Youth in his last start, I will be the first to admit he got a great setup in that race. The Fountain of Youth pace was strong, which worked in favor of Orb’s closing style. It also helped that Violence, who was a narrowly beaten second in the Fountain of Youth as the odds-on favorite and sustained a career-ending injury in that race, was closer to that strong early pace than he perhaps had to be. But while all of that is true, it should not diminish the fact that Orb also ran well, rallying four wide on a Gulfstream main track that doesn’t often support that sort of move. The Fountain of Youth was Orb’s third straight victory, and second straight since getting Lasix, and it is noteworthy he has taken significant steps forward in terms of Beyer Figures with each of his wins.

[DERBY WATCH: Top 20 Kentucky Derby contenders with odds and video]

The thing is, Orb is in line to receive another favorable setup Saturday. And that, combined with the likelihood he will still be a bigger price than Itsmyluckyday and Shanghai Bobby, is why I’m taking Orb to win right back.

Merit Man brings serious sprint speed to this Florida Derby, although the removal of blinkers should help him relax some and suggests he won’t be running off early. Shanghai Bobby, who is a big question mark at this nine-furlong distance, also has serious speed. It’s hard envisioning these two not conspiring for a lively pace and setting the table for Orb, who won at this distance two starts back when he overcame an unfavorable pace scenario.

As for Itsmyluckyday, he is absolutely the one to beat. He was monstrous winning the Gulfstream Park Derby and then handing Shanghai Bobby his first defeat in the Holy Bull, and he is in position for a great trip Saturday, getting first run on Orb. But even though the two-month layoff Itsmyluckyday (and Shanghai Bobby) brings into this race was planned, I’m not crazy about depending on a horse who will have to go a longer distance than he ever has before off such a layoff.

Louisiana Derby

Morning-line favorite Revolutionary has a lot of talent, but he’s also a bit of a head case. Much of the considerable trouble he overcame winning the Withers last time out was of his own making. Revolutionary hasn’t been great leaving the gate, sometimes he only runs in spots, and when he was splitting the questionable opposition he faced in the Withers, he was running with his head up, as though he disliked being in traffic. These are not characteristics I’m willing to accept in a favorite, especially one in a big field like this.

As for the group of five in here coming out of the Risen Star, I’m leaning against them. The Risen Star was won by an implausible 135-1 shot, and only 3 1/2 lengths separated the first and eighth finishers. I know that Oxbow came out of a fourth in the Risen Star to be a narrowly beaten second in the Rebel, but I need to see more evidence that the Risen Star wasn’t the mediocre race it appears to be.

Departing is an interesting horse. He cruised in his first three starts and I have great respect for his connections. But I wonder about that 97 Beyer Figure that Departing got for winning at Sam Houston most recently because I find it suspicious that the three who finished closest to Departing in that race also received career-best Beyers.

I’m going with Titletown Five. Titletown Five showed a lot of potential last year in nothing but hot maiden races, including the one he won by the length of the stretch in his first start with Lasix at Churchill Downs last fall. Titletown Five was also game as the beaten favorite in his recent return from four-month break after disputing a strong early pace. Not only is Titletown Five the clear speed of this field, he is also finally getting to do what he was bred for, which is go long. Titletown Five is by Tiznow, out of D’Wildcat Speed, who was 9 for 11 routing. Now, most of D’Wildcat Speed’s route wins were in Puerto Rico, but she did win the 2005 Rampart at Gulfstream by six lengths, earning a 106 Beyer.

In the other big stakes at Fair Grounds, I like Unlimited Budget right back in the Fair Grounds Oaks, Bourbon Courage in the New Orleans, and Doubles Partner in the Mervin Muniz.

Appleton Stakes

No fewer than seven of the 12 entered in this race at Gulfstream Park like to operate on or right with the early pace. Under the circumstances, I want a closer, and I like Omayad. Omayad was a multiple Group 1 winner in his native Chile, and was well regarded when he came to New York on Belmont Stakes Day last year for the Manhattan Handicap off a sharp second in his United States debut at Betfair Hollywood. But something had to have gone wrong in the Manhattan as this will be Omayad’s first start since. Layoffs have never bothered Omayad in the past, though, and his relatively unknown trainer, Oussama Aboughazale, shouldn’t be a concern, either. Aboughazale, who also owns and bred Omayad, was a veteran horseman in various capacities in Chile, and he won with a 29-1 shot in his first start as a trainer here in the United States.

In two of the other stakes at Gulfstream, I like Dreaming of Julia to turn the tables on Live Lively in the Gulfstream Oaks, and Take Charge Indy to win the Skip Away on the front end, which is where he should be.


Jay More than 1 year ago
The Form against Revolutionary: Long spring, huh.
CassSpeaks More than 1 year ago
Oh, my! They pay you for this? It is evident that you have been too dumb to realize that you can't watch a race shot through a telescopic lens and see any of the lateral movement going on and therefore minimal professionalism requires you to watch the head-on. Revolutionary has taken more abuse at the gate than any three horses I have ever seen and has contributed NOTHING to the problems handed to him. Horses, being prey animals, are wired to look for ambushes and being mugged in their first start can stamp them. Secretariat was fouled in his first start and it was the Belmont before he broke well; he would break behind his field and look around for danger before making his move. Using post position #s as descriptors (Revolutionary was post 3) in his first start the following action which is undetectable on the pan view is clear on the head-on: at the break the 1 breaks inward, picks up the 2, and using 2 like a snowplow blade, shoves 2 into 3's shoulder and past in front of him into 4. 5's back end is shoved outwards, 1 is yanked inwards by his rider, and these two bolt for the rail, running a 21 and change 1st quarter, while a clump of horses is milling in paths 3&4, and around the time when the timer is tripped, Revolutionary is BACKING UP to get out of a wedge made up of 2 and 4. Where was his fault? In his second start, Revolutionary was in the outside post. The horse inside him broke outwards and went to its knees under his nose. You might say he broke slowly, looking at the pan shot, but if you look at the shot that reveals what went on at the off you would not. His third start, Revolutionary is in pp 1, the gate positioned just back a bit from the final bend. Transparent, in 2, breaks into him and carries him out of the camera view and he is next seen curving into the stretch. The notes suggest that he was in hand while taking evasive action. I can't see well enough to tell exactly what the rider is doing with him but his action is very choppy and he is clearly upset. Fourth start. Nothing happens to Revolutionary. He is in post 7, breaks perfectly, takes a stalking position, moves to the lead when asked and opens up 8 1/2 lengths on Transparent in the drive. Fifth start (the Withers): Revolutionary is in pp. 3. At the break Valid, in 2, falls on his head and scrapes along the ground for a stride. He is straight and neither hits nor impedes Revolutionary -- we've got a winner! It is a major distraction, however, and once again the lazy and unobservant will say he breaks slowly. The pattern of the race emerges with a clump of five horses in front doing a lot of lane changing and barring progress for the horses in the rear. Revolutionary is taken up the fence and back again three times, then sits in the middle waiting for daylight. Turning into the stretch, Escapefromreality comes off the fence, cuts under him and bangs into another horse before advancing into a duel with the leader. When there is finally a seam between them, Revolutionary cuts into it like a knife, sees who's beside him, and, giving him the evil eye, moves as far away as he can without making contact. Trouble like this can be career ending. Remember Miss Netta? This horse has never been off the board. I hope this last uneventful run will brave him up. His Derby prospects seem to depend on how strung out the field gets. He probably can't win that one going eight-wide around the turn.
Sam More than 1 year ago
He'd even be a better hunch bet if his name was Pontiff Francis.
Sam More than 1 year ago
This is absolutely the craziest Derby run-up ever. maidens or virtual maidens running in qualifying stakes races and winning. Now we got Pontiff, who the analyst for the free PP on today's program give this colt an upset chance. He only has TWO races. His first was terrible and the last great, but against not much competition and a slow time. The up-side is the last race was a mile and 1/8th and he closed fast and was second by a nose. Well, like the analyst stated, we just got a new Pontiff, and maybe he's a great hunch bet.
Sam More than 1 year ago
Why, Mike, did you overlook Code West?
Con MacCarthy More than 1 year ago
Ground Transport,Titletown Five,Departing,Revolutionary...Box
Rita Polander More than 1 year ago
I forgot one of the horses that I have an exacta box on with Titletown Five, Verrazano !
Rita Polander More than 1 year ago
Mike - Glad your'e on Titletown five in the LA Derby. I sure hope your right. I've got him at 61-1 in FP2 in exacta boxes with 6 very live horses. Orb,IMLD,Flashback, Normandy Invasion, Oxbow, The payout would be stellar in the KY Derby if I could nail the Exacta. We know Titletown Five loves Churchill Downs, he would be well rested going into the Derby, with a 1 1'8 under his belt, and would have to be considered a top contendor if he can get the qualifying points in the LA Derby, which he needs a 1st or 2nd to get in. All other prognosticators seem to think he will tire and fade in this race. I question the quality of this field, and like you, have confidence in him, but I have more confidence in him now since you are backing him. I also see you have Governor Charlie at 15-1 for the KY Derby. He is #4 on my list, I believe he has a real shot. Thanks for the insights Mike, keep up the good work.
Mark More than 1 year ago
Leaning TT5 also. Can't get past his maiden romp. And his speed on the stretchout . Price will have to be right . Ml or higher . Will make wp wager if right. Also I will b using pm rev depart on pick tix . Gl
Roger More than 1 year ago
Code West had a clear trip in the Risen Star and only beat Palice Malice a nose who had a terrible trip. With a clear trip I think Palice Malice would have won that race easily. I like him to win tomorrow at 5-1 or 9-2 odds. Prado has been working him and he worked evenly with Shanghai B. in his latest workout. SB has loads more seasoning and should have bested him so I think you're looking at a major contender here for Louisville after he runs over this group.
Sam More than 1 year ago
One analyst in here wrote an interesting story on Palace Malice. He said that he is like his sire, Curlin, who was slow at developing; that PM is a late foal but gets bet in each race. He may have something there. He gets bigger and stronger as he ages.