DeRosa Kentucky Derby Prep Picks for the Florida and Louisiana Derbys

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Ed DeRosa

March 31st, 2017

Handicapping Kentucky Derby prep races with an eye toward who could win the Kentucky Derby itself is a difficult balancing act. There is an ultimate goal with smaller--yet still-very-lucrative--goals along the way. Successfully handicapping these prep races and then the Kentucky Derby requires forming opinions on how each horse is preparing not only for this race but also the Derby. But it also requires being able to adapt to new information and not getting married to an opinion.

So it goes with the Florida Derby on Saturday at Gulfstream Park where I will back my initial impressions of Gunnevera's career arc while changing course on some variables surrounding State of Honor.

Going into the Fountain of Youth Stakes, Gunnevera looked capable of winning that race and as a horse who might be best now versus in May. I thought he'd fire his best prep race in the Fountain of Youth and had a chance not to perform as well going forward. As the Florida Derby favorite, I will back this opinion on Saturday by not backing him. We know the talent is there but at 2-to-1 or less he's worth opposing against a group that has shown some class.

State of Honor has won me over. Or at least the Tampa Bay Downs form has. State of Honor was third behind McCraken and Tapwrit in the Sam F. Davis before finishing behind Tapwrit in the Tampa Bay Derby. I initially thought the form from those races was being overvalued because of McCraken but think it has held up well enough that State of Honor with speed and the rail and a generous price is worth backing here.

The other horse I want most in trying to defeat Gunnevera is Batallion Runner, who just fits on numbers and won't be overbet--rare for a Pletcher at Gulfstream. 

Trainer Todd Pletcher has done well shipping his horses for preps, winning with the aforementioned Tapwrit as well as One Liner and Malagacy. Batallion Runner stays "home" while Patch heads to Fair Grounds for the Louisiana Derby, and I'll use him only defensively, as I think the locally based Girvin and (aptly named in this context) Local Hero fit this race best.

There's no Florida-Louisiana Derby double wager, but if there were I'd go 2x2 with State of Honor and Batallion Runner with Girvin and Local Hero. However, since the Dream Bet promotion requires a singular bet, those would go on State of Honor and Local Hero.

For FREE Ultimate Past Performances for the LOUISIANA and FLORIDA Derbys, click each state's name.