- I'm not looking for a big upset, or even a little one in the Florida Derby; I think the winner will come from the Gang of Four of Stormello, Scat Daddy, Notional, and Adore the Gold. Chelokee is getting a lot of press based on the Michael Matz/Barbaro angle, and is just sure to be overbet. Matz is having an awful meeting at Gulfstrem, with five winners out of 62 runners; 0 for his last 18. Many of those have come at short prices, including his latest loser, Sugar Baby Love, bet down to 7-5 on Thursday in her first North American start, ugh! Chelokee is coming off that spectacular looking stretch run after being checked on the turn, but that was an entry allowance race. I have to pass, with his trainer being so cold, and Matz can thank me for the favor if he wins.
Boogie Boggs tries two turns and stakes company for the first time; he's eligible for entry-level allowance company. Imawildandcrazyguy ran a decent 4th in the Louisiana Derby after his second to Notional in the Risen Star, and could pick up some pieces with a little luck. Birdbirdistheword was No real threat in the La. Derby with no excuse at all, and will have to close from dead last breaking from the dreaded nine post; pass. So let's get to the main players.
Notional (In Excess) would seem to present excellent value at his 4-1 morning line, but I don't expect to see that price. He's the new face in this crew, and I think he'll be somewhat of a wise guy horse; the anti-Beyers play (not that his Beyers are really much slower than anyone else here anyway). I wouldn't be shocked to see him open as the favorite and drift up a bit from there. I watched his winning effort in the Risen Star for the first time in awhile, and was reminded of announcer John Dooley noting that the colt was still "in hand" as he turned for home; this after conceding some ground on the first turn from the 12 post. He had to drift out to find room in the stretch, and took control convincingly once he did. He since has three solid workouts on the Cushion Track, and as I've mentioned probably ad nauseum at this point, my theory is that training on that surface is helping the West Coast horses when they ship east. He has been out for seven weeks, and with five weeks until the Derby, perhaps he's the one who should be compared to Barbaro. [Calm down, Friends of Barbaro...I'm not comparing him in ability, only in his Derby prep campaign, which is actually extremely similar.]
"The timing of this race is perfect, Robby's had the benefit of already riding him once, and the addition of blinkers in the San Rafael has made him much more versatile and easier to position in his races," said Doug O'Neill. [Daily Racing Form]As I'll get to below, I think the pace scenario will be favorable for him to make his run from mid-pack.
Scat Daddy (Johannesburg) seems to have actually been downgraded by some for winning the Fountain of Youth, as will sometimes happen when a horse is greatly benefited by the pace scenario of a race. It's well known that the final eighth mile of the race took almost 14 seconds to complete. However, according to Formulator, Scat Daddy ran that last eighth in 12 4/5 seconds, which is nothing to scoff at, especially considering that he took the long route home on the final turn. I've been up and down on him; like many bettors who let him go at almost 6-1 in the FOY, I was put off by his Holy Bull. But in retrospect, that was perhaps a training exercise, as he was sent to battle Nobiz Like Shobiz for the lead. If you throw out that race, the Juvenile, and his very troubled Hopeful, he's undefeated. Yeah, I know that's a lot to disregard, and that he hasn't improved Beyer-wise since his first two races. But I think it would be a mistake to count him out, and perhaps he'll be a fair price too.
You might think that Stormello (Stormy Atlantic) would be exhausted after he labored home bravely in the FOY, refusing to let anyone by until the final stride; and that after a grueling 14 hour trip from California. But he since shows two excellent works on the Cushion Track, most recently five furlongs in 58 1/5. Trainer William Currin told the Lexington Herald Reader:
"I wanted to wait for the Arkansas Derby (April 14)....But my horse made the decision for me.The trainer has shown the same admirable competitive spirit as his horse, shipping him back across the country to "get our nose back." [Sun-Sentinal]
"You can't hold him to the ground (right now)," Currin said, in trainer-speak for "my horse is feeling so great he's demanding to race."
As you might expect, Currin is "hoping for a slower early pace." [FOX] Remember that as game as Stormello was, he tired and slowed down considerably - 39 2/5 for the last three eighths. But it's hard to see why he won't be pressed again by Adore the Gold (Black Tie Affair), especially considering that colt's five furlong work in 57 3/5. Trainer Michael Gorham is extremely confident in his horse's ability to get a route of ground.
"It was his first mile-and-an-eighth (race)," Gorham said, noting that Adore the Gold was making an adjustment to two turns after winning the 6½-furlong Swale. "Now he's got that race under his belt; that's going to help him a lot. … He just got beat a length by the same horses. Right now he's a better horse than he was a month ago. He did get tired in that race. He's fitter and he's stronger now." [Louisville Courier-Journal]But Gorham has little choice but to instruct Cornelio Velasquez to stalk Stormello closely, because there's no other speed in the race whatsoever. The problem for Adore the Gold is that he doesn't break particularly well, and is very likely to be chasing Stormello again. Assuming that the latter is as fit as he appears to be, passing him is going to once again be a stiff challenge, so I see the race setting up similarly to the FOY.
So I like Notional, and he over Scat Daddy in the cold exacta.