The Derby Trail heats up in a big way this weekend, with current Kentucky Derby favorite Union Rags taking on eight foes in the $1 million Florida Derby (G1), his final prep for the Run for the Roses, which is just five weeks away.
On Sunday a field of 14 will head to the gate in the $1 million Louisiana Derby (G1) at Fair Grounds, with the winner assured a starting spot in the gate for the Kentucky Derby and the runner up earning enough graded earnings to be close to the top twenty in graded earnings.
Union Rags is coming off an impressive victory in the Fountain of Youth (G2) over the Gulfstream Park main track on Feb. 26.
The colt was making his first start off a 3 ½ month layoff and jockey Julien Leparoux did not have to ask for much in the stretch as he drew off to win by four widening lengths.
Trained by Michael Matz, who saddled 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro, the colt is the 6/5 morning line favorite, and his price may end up below even money.
On Sunday, Risen Star runner up Mark Valeski and LeComte (G3) winner Mr. Bowling are a coupled entry for trainer Larry Jones and the duo are the 2/1 morning line favorites in the Louisiana Derby.
Mark Valeski gave El Padrino all he could handle in the Risen Star, beaten just a nose, and we will have the opportunity to see how El Padrino comes out of the race in the Florida Derby.
His entrymate Mr. Bowling looked good winning the Lecomte and was my top pick in the Risen Star, but the colt ran poorly, fading to finish eleventh.
My Best Plays Report on Saturday will include my strongest plays from Aqueduct and stakes action from Gulfstream Park, and Sunday’s report will include some of the stakes action from Fair Grounds.
Michael Dempsey provides his full card report for Aqueduct each racing day. Mike’s full card report includes his selections, analysis, fair odds line, and wagering recommendations. Mike’s Best Plays Report is available each weekend, with his strongest plays and selections including the top stakes races.
Check out Michael Dempsey’s Derby Watch Elite Eight at Fox Sports each Wednesday.
Let’s head out to Gulfstream Park for Saturday’s featured race of the day:
Gulfstream Park Race 11 The Florida Derby (G1) Post time 5:40 ET
Union Rags 6/5
Take Charge Indy 5/1
El Padrino 2/1
Union Rags has won four of his five career starts with the lone loss coming to Hansen in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) where he came up a head short. The colt looked awesome winning his first start of 2012 in the Fountain of Youth (G2), drawing clear to win by four lengths. The lone runner to come out of that race and run back is sixth place finisher Csaba, who was third in the Palm Beach (G3) on turf on March 11. The colt has put in three solid works since his last outing at Palm Meadows and veteran clocker Bruno de Julio described his work on March 24 by Tweeting, “Union Rags work #pmm was an historical work, never seen anything like it, ever. Incredible.” The price is going to be on the light side, but looks as if he is sitting on a bog one here and will head to Louisville as the betting favorite.
Take Charge Indy makes his much anticipated three year old stakes debut here. The colt‘s one start this year was a solid second behind El Padrino in a first level allowance optional claimer. El Padrino came back to win the Risen Star (G2) in his next start at Fair Grounds on Feb. 25. His trainer Pat Byrne decided to skip the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) where he looked as if he would be tough to wait for this much tougher spot. The colt has a very appealing pedigree, by A.P. Indy out of the multiple Grade 1 winner Take Charge Indy ($2.48 million).
El Padrino had a tough stretch battle with Mark Valeski last out in the risen Star, prevailing by a hard fought nose. It was another 5 ½ lengths back to the third place finisher in the field. The colt has earned solid figs in his last two starts, and triple digit Beyers have been rare during this year’s run to the Derby and he earned a 100 two back beating Alw-1 optional claimers. He could bounce off his last effort and the price is going to be on the short side.
Union Rages to win at 7/5 or better.
EX: 3,6 / 3,6,8,9
TRI: 3,6 / 3,6,8,9 / 2,3,6,8,9
$500 Bet America Florida Derby Day Handicapping Contest
The contest action shifts to Gulfstream Park on Saturday for the blockbuster card of the meeting which features the $1 million Florida Derby (G1).
Post time for Saturday’s card will be 12:30 p.m. with the Florida Derby scheduled to go off at 5:45 p.m.
Contest Prizes: First place in the contest is $150, second place is $75, and eleven $25 prizes will be awarded!
This contest will be a LIVE contest with payoffs based on a $2 win and place wager on each selection. There are caps on payouts, 30/1 on win and 15/1 on place. Please make sure you get your wagers in a few minutes before post time to avoid being shut out!
Go to Track Champion to sign up for the action.