At least six starting spots for the Run for the Roses are on the line on Saturday with a trio of major Derby preps on tap.
The $1 million Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park, the $1.25 million Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn Park and the $600,000 Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) at Turfway Park each offer up 100-40-20-10 Road to the Kentucky Derby points to the top four finishers.
The Florida Derby has produced more Kentucky Derby winners than any other prep race at 24 and this year’s edition drew a strong group of 11.
Fountain of Youth (G2) winner Simplification is the 5-2 morning line favorite. The Antonio Sano trainee has won three of his six starts and Jose Ortiz has the return call.
“I love this horse,” Sano said. “He has so much heart. “The Kentucky Derby is five weeks after the Florida Derby. I know there will be different horses, but I think my horse will have a chance.”
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White Abarrio (3-1) figures to take plenty of betting action. The colt was a smart looking winner of the Holy Bull (G3) over the Gulfstream Park main track for trainer Saffie Joseph Jr.
Todd Pletcher, who has saddled five of the last eight Florida Derby winners including last year with Known Agenda sends out the highly regarded maiden winner Charge It. The son of Tapit broke his maiden on Feb. 12 by 8 ½ lengths.
Classic Causeway (7-2) comes in off a victory in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) in gate to wire fashion in his last outing.
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Legendary trainer D. Wayne Lukas will saddle the brilliant filly Secret Oath as she takes on the boys in Hot Springs. The filly has won four of her six career starts and won the Honeybee (G3) over the Oaklawn Park main track by 7 ½ lengths in her last start.
She is the 5-2 morning line favorite and a strong performance could lead her connections to run her again against the boys in the Kentucky Derby.
Doppelganger (3-1) invades from the west coast and makes her first start since exiting the Bob Baffert barn and going to Tim Yakteem. The colt was the runner up in the San Felipa (G2) at Santa Anita in his last outing.
Five are exiting the Rebel (G2) which was won by 75-1 longshot Un Ojo in a shocker. The Ricky Courville trainee is 6-1 on the morning line.
We the People (7-2) makes his stakes debut for trainer Rodolphe Brisset. The colt won his first two career starts by a combined 10 ¾ lengths.
The Jeff Ruby Steaks is run over a synthetic surface and in its history has not had a major impact on the Triple Crown trail. However, Animal Kingdom did use the race as a prep before winning the 2011 edition of the Run for the Roses.
A field of 13 entered with a dozen to start in the Jeff Ruby. Among the group is Tiz the Bomb, last year’s runner up finisher in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) at Del Mar. The Ken McPeek trainee won the John Battaglia over the Turfway Park surface in his last start.
Stolen Base was the runner up in the Battaglia and is seeking to turn the tables after missing by just a neck.
The Brad Cox trained Tawny Port was fifth in the Risen Star (G2) at Fair Grounds in his last start. The Pletcher trained Royal Sprit was beaten just a neck in a runner up finish in the Kitten’s Joy (G3) on turf and will be trying the synthetic surface for the first time on Saturday.