It is time to get serious about firming up the list for the top three-year old contenders to win this year’s Kentucky Derby the first Saturday in May. Two of the top contenders already on this list are set to face-off against one another in this Saturday’s Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park.
The highlight of this year’s Kentucky Derby prep race season will be played out on the track at Gulfstream Park when future’s favorite Mohaymen battles second-favorite Nyquist in a head-to-head showdown for bragging rights heading into Churchill Downs next month.
Florida Derby- Gulfstream Park
This Grade 1 stakes race is open to three-year old thoroughbreds and it will be contested on the dirt track at Gulfstream Park over a distance of 1 1/8 miles. The total prize purse for Saturday’s main event has been set at $1 million.
There are a total of 10 entries for Saturday’s race, but the two that have captivated the attention of the horse betting world just so happen to be the top two contenders to win this year’s Kentucky Derby. This duo will be the obvious exacta bet for the Florida Derby, but I am moving second choice Nyquist to the top of my list for sports picks with 6/5 betting odds on the morning line.
This three-year old Kentucky-bred colt will put a six-race winning streak on the line this Saturday including a key victory this season in the Grade 2 San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita Park over a distance of seven furlongs. Trained by Doug O’Neill, he immediately became one of the top favorites to win the Kentucky Derby with a first-place finish in last October’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Keeneland. Look for jockey Mario Gutierrez to get the ride in this race.
The top favorite to win the 2016 Kentucky Derby on BetOnline’s futures list is Mohaymen. He comes into this race ranked 18th by Horse Racing Nation with an 8.46 rating on the strength of a perfect 5-0 racing record. Trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, this three-year Kentucky-bred colt put himself firmly on the Kentucky Derby Trail with a victory in the Grade 2 Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct over a distance of 1 1/8 miles as a juvenile.
He has remained perfect in two previous events this season at Gulfstream with a victory in the Grade 2 Holy Bull Stakes on Jan. 30 and the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth on Feb. 27. Both races were over a length of 1/16 miles. Mohaymen opened as a 1/1 even money favorite on the morning line with jockey Junior Alvarado slated to get the ride.
Bonus Pick: Spiral Stakes- Turfway Park
Some of the top three-year old turf horses in the nation will be competing in this year’s Spiral Stakes for a share of a total prize purse of $500,000. Saturday’s race will be run on the synthetic turf at Turfway Park over a distance of 1 1/8 miles.
The field for this race has ballooned to 14 entries and it is quite deep in talent. Narrowing this field down to two has been a bit of a handicapping challenge, but I have settled-in on trainer Todd Pletcher’s Azar as my top choice. He is not the highest rated horse in the field by HRN at 5.15, but I like the fact that he is coming off a good showing in a recent Allowance race win at Gulfstream over a distance of 1 1/16 miles.
This Kentucky-bred colt broke onto the racing scene as a juvenile with a victory in the Grade 2 With Anticipation Stakes at Saratoga in early September. After following-up that run with a second-place finish in the Grade 3 Pilgrim Stakes at Belmont, he plummeted to 13th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. Despite that disappointing effort, his latest workouts point to a very successful three-year old campaign.
My second choice for Saturday’s race would be Kasseopia following his impressive third-place finish in this year’s Grade 3 El Real Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate over a distance of 1 1/8 miles. Trained by Graham Notion and ridden by jockey Alan Garcia, he comes into this race with a HRN rating of 5.85, which is third-best in a very strong field.
This three-year old colt was bred in Great Britain and he has been able to finish in the money in his last four races. His best effort as a juvenile was a second-place finish in the Grade 3 Grey Stakes at Woodbine on Oct. 4 over a distance of 1 1/16 miles.