VSiN.com senior reporter
We were all around the Louisiana Derby last week; close but no Cigar (which was one of my all-time favorite horses, but that’s a story for another day).
Three of my horses in my four-horse box (Lone Sailor, My Boy Jack and Givemeaminit) ran 2-3-4, but I left out the winner, Noble Indy, who went off as the 5-2 favorite. Personally, I did throw him in for a 10-cent superfecta box (cost $12, paid $137.16) to cut my losses and heard from some readers that did the same. I’m not trying to take credit for that, but just pointing out that while I’m trying to give out winners here, the ultimate goal is to have you incorporate my takes into your own handicapping and include other horses where you feel I missed the boat. The part I missed in my handicapping was using Bravazo as my top choice from among the top contenders instead of Noble Indy.
But that’s last week; this is a great horse racing Saturday in addition to the Final Four with the Dubai World Cup (and UAE Derby) being held on the other side of the world (early morning here in Vegas) and one of the biggest Kentucky Derby preps in the Florida Derby (hopefully run during a stoppage in play of the Loyola-Michigan matchup).
I haven’t had much success in the Dubai races over the years, so take these opinions with a grain of sand: I feel the UAE Derby mostly sets up as a duel between No. 4 Medelssohn and No. 5 Gold Town. I’m not going to spend much money trying to beat them, but I will monitor the tote board in case No. 6 Seahenge (12-1) or Threeandfourpence (15-1) drift higher. If you must have action, maybe box those four. In the Dubai World Cup, I really like this field and it’s pretty wide-open. For those that followed us at the time of the Breeders’ Cup, we had No. 7 Talismanic as the $30.20 winner of the Turf. He won’t be anywhere near that price Saturday. I’m going to take a flier on No. 5 Mubtaahij, who we just bet in the Big Cap three weeks ago at Santa Anita and had no idea that was a prep for this race (actually, I’m joking as that wasn’t the gameplan, but trainer Bob Baffert said he came out of the race in great shape and decided to put him on the flight to Dubai). Baffert also has No. 9 West Coast, but we’ve often seen trainer’s second-stringers pull upsets and there will be more value on Mubtaahij (who ran second in this race in 2016, so we know he likes the track).
But what I really like Saturday as far as having live price horses is the Florida Derby, so let’s take a look:
Florida Derby, Saturday, March 31
Gulfstream Park Race #14, estimated post time: 6:36 p.m. ET/3:36 p.m. PT
Value win bet: We have another past longshot winner of ours in No. 4 Promises Fulfilled, who we picked to wire the Fountain of Youth Stakes on this same track four weeks ago. Like Talismanic, we’ll let other people have him at 3-1 after we cashed at $38.40. Promises Fulfilled should again be on the lead and No. 1 Strike Power, who along with jockey Luis Saez allowed Promises Fulfilled to set too leisurely of a pace last time, should be forced to press him more this time and set faster fractions. I think this should set this up for a closer (or two or three). There are actually three longshot closers that I like (No. 3 Tip Sheet at 30-1, No. 7 Hofburg at 20-1 and No. 9 Mississippi at 12-1). I believe the best value play is No. 7 Hofburg; I usually avoid maiden winners stepping up into stakes company, but I trust trainer Bill Mott (who trained Cigar, but that’s another story) and Hofburg won with first-time Lasix last out and is eligible to keep improving despite stepping up in class. The other two would only be worthy of win bets if they go off higher than their morning-line odds, and that includes Tip Sheet who doesn’t fire every time.
Exotic box (exactas, trifectas, supers, as well as possible vertical wagers): The horse I feel is the most likely winner is No. 6 Catholic Boy, but I was disappointed he’s priced so low at 7-2. Along with No. 8 Audible, the 9-5 favorite, they need Kentucky Derby points to make the Run for the Roses (another reason to discard Promises Fulfilled as he’s in the Derby field no matter what happens here, so I don’t expect him to be sent out with his best effort). So, I’m going to have a 10-cent superfecta box with 3-6-7-8-9 and smaller keys, wheels and boxes in the exacta and trifecta pools). For instance, one of my tickets will include my most likely winner and value play to run 1-2, so my trifecta wheel would be 6-7 with 6-7 with 3-8-9. Mix and match as you see fit. Good luck, everyone.