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Florida Derby: They don't come much better than this
by Geir Stabell ( / Globeform (
Last update: 2011-04-03 06:22:05 (First published: 2011-04-01 14:09:40 )

Gulfstream Park Sunday:

When Todd Pletcher said there was chance of Uncle Mo turning up for the Florida Derby (G1), he may have been hoping to scare the connections of other top Derby contenders to look elsewhere for their final preps, so his runner Stay Thirsty would get an easier task.

Well, if so, it did not work. Pletcher's Gotham winner finds himself in what can only be described as a huge step up in class situation, as he is set to meet the solid Fountain of Youth winner Soldat, the speedy Hutcheson winner Flashpoint, the fast closing Holy Bull winner Dialed In, as well as last year's comfortable Remsen winner To Honor and Serve. If anything, this Florida Derby field has turned out even deeper than expected.

Triple Crown preps don't come much better than this.


Gulfstream Park 3 April 2011 1 1/8 miles dirt

Runners presented with best Globeform, sire, trainer, jockey. Globeform ratings
are expressed in pounds. One length equals 2lb over this distance

116p - SOLDAT (War Front) K McLaughlin / A Garcia
114p - FLASHPOINT (Pomeroy) R Dutrow Jr / C Velazquez
113p - TO HONOR AND SERVE (Bernardini) B Mott / G Momez
109P - DIALED IN (Mineshaft) N Zito / J Leparoux
108p - STAY THIRSTY (Bernardini) T Pletcher / R Dominguez
..96p - SHACKLFORD (Forestry) D Romans / J Castanon
..94p - BOWMAN'S CAUSEWAY (Giant's Causeway) P Biancone / P Lopez
..90p - ARCH TRAVELER (Sky Mesa) J Jerkens / J Lezcano


is hard to oppose in thie year's Florida Derby. Kiaran McLaughlin's colt looked a serious Kentucky Derby contender when winning the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) over this course and distance in February. Making his second start of the year following a romp over a sloppy track here in January the son of War Front went straight to the lead in the Fountain of Youth, and he stayed there for quite an impressive and comfortable win. The fractions were not fast and there is no doubt that Soldat enjoyed the run of the race that day, but his performances last year indicated that he is not a natural front-runner. He was so relaxed on the lead, this colt can be held up, and he will definitely go further. He kicked away strongly at the top of the lane in the 'FOY' and ran on really well to win by 2 lengths from Gourmet Dinner, with To Honor and Serve beaten almost seven lengths in third. To Honor and Serve, who completed the Nashua / Remsen double last fall, was making his first start of the year and clearly needed the run but this was a big margin. Gourmet Dinner, winner of the Delta Jackpot last November, was coming off a game third in the Holy Bull Stakes, beaten 1 lengths by Dialed In (who was value for more than the bare margins). Soldat's form appears to be strong. He is set to break from the inside post once more, and another ground saving trip beckons. He is unlikely to be sent to the lead, but can be expected to race prominently. With the speedy Flashpoint in the wide berth, Soldat will most likely get a lead early here. He is the one who will be in a good spot regadrless of the pace scenario, his stamina will be a vital asset when they get inside the final quarter and he is the logical selection.

FLASHPOINT was visually so impressive in the 7-furlong Hutcheson Stakes (G3) run on the same day as the Fountain of Youth. After pressing the early speed horse Travelin Man, he shot away in the home straight to beat him by 7 lengths. He looked very strong passing the wire and seven panels is unlikely to be his maximum. Travelin Man is the likely favorite for the Swale today (race 3) and his performance there will give us an indication of just how good Flashpoint is. In all probability, he is a future Grade One winner and he should stay a mile, but will he stay the Florida Derby distance? His running style casts doubts and so does his pedigree. His sire, Pomeroy, was a sprinter, as was his dam, Two Punch Lil. She has previously produced Uncle Lee Sam (Exploit), who was placed twice in stakes races over 7 furlongs in Japan, and Yuwa Hurricane (Mt. Livermore), a 1 1/4-mile turf winner in Japan who was also placed in stakes sprints. This is a speedy family but trying Flashpoint around two turns this weekend is not such a bad idea. It's the only way to find out whether he should be pointed to the Run for The Roses in May.

TO HONOR AND SERVE led from gate to wire to win the Remsen Stakes (G2) over 1 1/8 miles at Aqueduct in November 2010, having taken the Nashua Stakes (G2) over the same course in similar style three weeks earlier. He cruised home by 4 lengths in the Nashua, and by 2 lengths in the Remsen, with Mucho Macho Man second each time. Mucho Macho Man was the best of what seemed to be soft opposition to Bill Mott's winner, but he has done well this year running fourth in the Holy Bull (G3) and winning the Risen Star (G2) and To Honor and Serve is a horse one must take seriously in the Kentucky Derby picture. Despite his somewhat disappointing run in the Fountain of Youth, where he was close to Soldat until the home straight, but simply failed to pick up. He was a rather one-paced third, beaten almost seven lengths while carrying 2lb more than the winner. Soldat clearly held fitness advantage over To Honor and Serve, who was overtaken by Soldat in the betting. Which was quite interesting, given that To Honor and Serve's credentials were considerably stronger at the time. He can be expected to be much sharper this time.

DIALED IN is coming off a loss in allowance company in early March. Hardly the normal set up for a horse right up with the future book favorites for the Kentucky Derby, but one should not put to much weight on his most recent start when a slow pace foiled him over 1 1/8 miles against older horses here at Gulfstream Park. You might argue that if he is such a star he should have won that race anyway but it was a pretty inconclusive affair. The race gave him much needed experience though, and we know he is so much better than that showing; the way he won the one-mile Holy Bull Stakes (G3) had to be seen to be believed. Dialed In came from a seemingly hopless position right at the back of the field to sweep past his eight rivals in the stretch. His finish was similar to Point Given's in the 2000 Breeders' Cup Juvenile, and Dialed In is an exciting prospect. He got up to beat Sweet Ducky and Gourmet Dinner by 1 lengths in the Holy Bull. Sweet Ducky's poor run in Dubai subsequently may not be significant, and Gourmet Dinner's second to Soldat in the Fountain of Youth gives us a more meaningful line. Telling us that Dialed In is a big danger. A strongly run race over 9 furlongs will suit him well, and the 10 furlongs at Churchill Downs in May should be even better.

STAY THIRSTY, carrying the same silks as Uncle Mo, adds blinkers for this event, as he steps up in class a month after having won the Gotham Stakes (G3) in decent style at Aqueduct. Racing over a mile, he proved far too good for Norman Asbjornson and Toby's Corner in New York. These two do not strike us like potential Grade One performers, however, and Stay Thirsty was receiving 4lb from both. So, he must improve to figure here. That said, he won the Gotham by 3 lengths and he may be a progressive sort. Stay Thirsty was second to Boys At Tosconova in last year's Hopeful Stakes (G1) and a remote fifth to Uncle Mo in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) when Boys At Tosconova was second.




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