The big three will face off at the $1 million G1 Florida Derby this Saturday at Gulfstream Park. But it's not the Miami Heat's big three of Lebron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh.
G3 Holy Bull Winner Itsmyluckyday, G1 BC Juvenile winner Shanghai Bobby and G2 Fountain of Youth winner Orb, are the big three headlining Florida's top Kentucky Derby prep race.
But they will not run alone in the race. Seven other contenders will challenge, making this a fine field of 10 that will go to the starting gate on Saturday looking for the 170 Kentucky Derby qualifying points that are up for grabs in the Florida Derby.
The Florida Derby is part of the last tier of races on the the new "Road to the Kentucky Derby" points series that determines starters for the Kentucky Derby on May 4 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. It awards 100-40-20-10 points to the top four finishers in the race.
The points in this race will be of the utmost importance for the morning line favorite Itsmyluckyday, who currently sits in 20th position in the points standings. The 10 points he has were thanks to his win in the G3 Holy Bull.
Itsmyluckyday comes from winning the G3 Holy Bull in a track-record performance. He earned a 104 Beyer figure for that effort and had earned a 102 on his previous start—a win in the Gulftstream Park Derby on Jan. 1.
Those two Beyer figures are the two best for anybody in the race. Shanghai Bobby earned a 100 for his second place in the G3 Holy Bull.
Itsmyluckyday is a horse that can keep up with the pace in stalking mode. He likes to take it up to the leaders around the far turn and finishes up well which could come in handy again on Saturday.
In the G3 Holy Bull he caught Shanghai Bobby and bid clear in the final sixteenth for the two-length win. Trainer Ed Plesa Jr must be pleased with the way he has been training well for the race.
Jockey Elvis Trujillo, who guided him to the win in the G3 Holy Bull, gets the return mount.
Shanghai Bobby drew the rail again for this race, just like he did at the G3 Holy Bull. From that spot he was sent to the lead by Rosie Napravnik and was game in defeat.
It will be a very important decision at the start for Napravnik. Shanghai Bobby will need to break quickly to avoid getting pinned inside on the run to the start of the first turn. But with Merit Man on the race, do you go for the lead or try to run just off the leader.
Logic for Napravnik would dictate to let Merit Man clear him and take the lane just outside of him. But with Itsmyluckyday starting from post three, Trujillo could opt to keep Shanghai Bobby pinned on the inside.
Trainer Todd Pletcher has Shanghai Bobby ready with steady workouts up to the race. The question with the BC Juvenile winner has always been if he can get to the distance, and must prove he can to contend for the win here.
Orb is the only horse in the Florida Derby field assured of a Kentucky Derby berth. His 50 points came thanks to the impressive way he ran down Violence to win the G2 Fountain of Youth.
He earned a 97 Beyer figure for that effort, which was the third consecutive race he made a sizable improvement in those figures. He is still improving and has not lost any step with three consistently good workouts for this race.
John Velazquez was aboard for his G2 Fountain of Youth win and gets the return mount. Expect him to use the post position six to follow Itsmyluckyday and Shanghai Bobby on the clear and repeat his winning strategy of the G2 Fountain of Youth.
The Shug-McGaughey-trained colt is one of only two proven winners at nine furlongs in this race. And he is regally bred to run all day.
Frac Daddy was a close second to Uncaptured last year in the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club. He finished a distant sixth to Itsmyluckyday and Shanghai Bobby in the G3 Holy Bull.
He grabbed a quarter in that race and hasn't run since while recovering from a throat ulcer. Considering all those mitigating factors, and his off the charts workouts for the race you have to consider him at least for your exotics.
But if the Frac Daddy of the mornings shows up in the afternoon on Saturday, the big three better look out. Corey Lanerie get the call aboard for the race, David Cohen rode him in his previous three starts.
Merit Man gets the blinkers-off, but his best chances are playing catch-me-if-you-can. He has too much speed not to use it here. Jockey Kent Desormeaux will get the call and will have to nurse that speed since his horse has never gone beyond seven furlongs.
Are You Kidding Me will be making his dirt debut. He has run very well with respectable company, but all seven starts have been either on synthetic or turf.
At least he did an excellent workout for the race Tuesday at the Payson Park Training Center on dirt. He ran a best-of-12 for the four-furlongs distance that day with a time of 48.20. He would still need to improve to contend.
Pontiff, Indy's Illusion and Narvaez round up the field.
Orb looks like the winner here. This horse just keeps improving and has the opportunity to have the best trip in the race. Expect him to run with Itsmyluckyday and take him down in a duel just like he did with Violence at the G2 Fountain of Youth.
Frac Daddy will make a run at them but will be just third best. Shanghai Bobby will have a decent run but will not be able to keep up with my top three picks.
Win - Orb
Place - Itsmyluckyday
Show - Frac Daddy
Honorable Mention - Shanghai Bobby
Florida Derby | Grade 1 | Purse: $1 Million
Gulfstream Park | 12th Race | Post Time: 6:19 p.m. ET
Distance: 1800 Meters (9.0 furlongs)
|1 ||Shanghai Bobby||Rosie Napravnik||Todd A. Pletcher||5-2|
|2||Pick of the Litter||Jesus L. Castanon||Dale Romans||6-1|
|3||Itsmyluckyday||Elvis Trujillo||Edward Plesa Jr||2-1|
|4||Pontiff||Alan Garcia||Dale Romans||30-1|
|5||Frac Daddy||Corey J. Lanerie||Kenneth G. McPeek||20-1|
|6||Orb||John R. Velazquez||Claude R. McGaughey III||3-1|
|7||Indy's Illusion||Rajiv Maragh||Barclay Tagg||20-1|
|8||Merit Man||Kent J. Desormeaux||Robert B. Hess Jr||15-1|
|9||Are You Kidding Me||Jose Lezcano||Roger Attfield||15-1|
|10||Narvaez||Paco Lopez||Agustin C. Bezara||20-1|
Top Recent Workouts
|Horse||Date||Track/Surface||Distance||Time ||Day Rank|
|1- Shanghai Bobby ||Mar. 24 ||PMM/Dirt ||5F ||1:00.82 ||6/34|
|3- Itsmyluckyday||Mar. 23||CRC/Dirt||4F||48.80||3/59|
|5- Frac Daddy||Mar. 16||GP/Dirt||5F||1:00.85||1/29|
Morning Line odds by drf.com.