Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Florida Derby: Gunnevera Favored, in Post 11

By Jim Freer
Gunnevera will be in the outside post, number 11, and is the 9-5 morning line favorite for Saturday’s $1 million Florida Derby (Grade 1) at Gulfstream Park.
On Wednesday, eleven horses were entered for the 1 1/8 mile dirt race for 3-year-olds.
The Florida Derby is one of nine stakes races on Saturday’s 14-race Gulfstream card. First post is 12:00 p.m.  The Florida Derby is the 14th race with scheduled post of 6:45 p.m.
Gunnevera comes into the Florida Derby following an impressive come-from-from behind win in the 1 1/16 mile Fountain of Youth (Grade 2) at Gulfstream on March 4.  He finished 5  ¾ lengths ahead of Practical Joke, who is not running in the Florida Derby. 
Because of his late-running style, the outside post will probably not have a big impact on Gunnevera. Regular jockey Javier Castellano has the mount for trainer Antonio Sano and owner Peacock Racing Stables.
 Only ten horses likely will be in the starting gate.
Trainer Todd  Pletcher entered Always Dreaming and Battalion Runner.  But he has indicated that Battalion Runner will run on Saturday only if Always Dreaming is a scratch from the Florida Derby.
If Battalion Runner is not in the Florida Derby, Pletcher probably will run him April 8 in one of that day’s prep  races for the Kentucky Derby (Grade 1). That race .will be run May 6 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.
Battalion Runner is owned by the St. Elias Stable,Vincent Viola owns St. Elias and also owns the Florida Panthers of the NHL.
St. Elias is  one of three owners of Always Dreaming.
Neither Always Dreaming nor Battalion Runner has been in a stakes. This winter, Always Dreaming has an allowance win at 1 1/8 miles at Gulfstream and Battalion Runner has an allowance win at 1 1/16 miles at Gulfstream.
Gulfstream line maker Jay Stone has made Always Dreaming the 3-1 second choice and Battalion Runner the 4-1 third choice in the morning line.
Pletcher has named John Velazquez as rider for Always Dreaming in post 4 and for Battalion Runner in post 9.
Both of the Pletcher horses have early speed. 
So do State of Honor, in post 1, and Three Rules, in post 10.  Both are 8-1 in the morning line.
State of Honor this winter finished third in the Sam F. Davis (Grade 3) and second in the Tampa Bay Derby (Grade 2)--both at Tampa Bay Downs.
Three Rules finished third in the Fountain of Youth.  Luis Saez  has the mount on Saturday for trainer Jose Pinchin.
The Florida Derby is a “Road to the Kentucky Derby” points scoring race. The first through fourth place finishers on Saturday will earn 100, 40, 20 and ten Kentucky Derby points, respectively.
Last year 32 points were required to make the 20-horse Kentucky Derby field.
Gunnevera has 64 points and is assured a spot in  the Kentucky Derby.
State of Honor (22), Three Rules (10) and Talk Logistics (6) are the only other Florida Derby entrants that have Kentucky Derby points.
Florida Derby Field
horse, trainer, jockey, morning line
1. State of Honor, Mark Casse, Julien Leparoux, 8-1
2. Talk Logistics, Eddie Plesa Jr., Joe Bravo, 30-1
3. Charlie the Greek, Mikhail Yanakov, Leonel Reyes, 50-1
4. Always Dreaming, Todd Pletcher, John Velazquez, 4-1
5. Quinentos, Enrique A. Sanchez, Carlos Montalvo, 50-1
6. Coleman Rocky, Gustavo Delgado, Jose Ortiz, 30-1
7. Unbridled Holiday, Patrick Biancone, Nik Juarez, 30-1
8. Impressive Edge, Dale Romans, Corey Lanerie, 12-1
9. Battalion Runner, Todd Pletcher, John Velazquez, 3-1
10. Three Rules, Jose Pinchin, Luis Saez, 8-1
11. Gunnevera, Antonio Sano, Javier Castellano, 9-5

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