Kentucky Derby Dream Bet Florida Derby, Spiral picks from Vance Hanson

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April 1st, 2016

The $1 million Florida Derby (G1) and $500,000 Spiral (G3) on Saturday kick off the final round of the $25,000 Kentucky Derby Dream Bet, and players who qualified for this round are now required to play $15 Win/Place bets on the selection of their choice in the final seven Kentucky Derby (G1) preps this month.

The Florida Derby showdown between the two undefeated Derby favorites, Mohaymen and Nyquist, has been well publicized. On paper, it doesn't appear anyone else in the bloated field of 10 should be able to keep one or the other out of the winner's circle.

A lot of people I respect are giving Nyquist, as the juvenile champion, the benefit of the doubt and pegging him as the one to beat. He'll be a slightly longer price than Mohaymen and is certainly the value play among the two, and he also come off an impressive victory in his season debut in the seven-furlong San Vicente (G2) at Santa Anita.

The lingering concern, dating back to last season, is that Nyquist's pedigree doesn't exactly scream distance. His very best performances to date have come around one turn, and he struggled a bit to separate himself when winning the FrontRunner (G1) and Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1), the latter in slower time for 1 1/16 miles than run by the filly Songbird earlier in the card.

I sincerely believe Nyquist is capable of getting nine furlongs (the 10 furlongs of the Kentucky Derby is a different discussion for a different day). However, in Mohaymen, he meets a rival that has clearly excelled at the distance and in two, local 1 1/16-mile preps already.

On BRIS Speed ratings, Mohaymen hasn't quite taken a step forward from the Remsen (G2) up to the Fountain of Youth (G2), nor has he been facing strenuous competition. However, watching replays of his last two races, I see a horse who didn't had to put forth 100 percent to win either race. It also appeared jockey Junior Alvarado was clearly conserving much of the colt's energy for bigger races to come, like this one and next month's big dance at Churchill Downs.

Facing his most serious challenge to date, I think Mohaymen (#9, 1-1) passes it and earns post-time favoritism on the first Saturday in May.

The Spiral, over nine furlongs on Polytrack, is a lot more contentious. I was teetering between the dangerous front-runner Don't Be So Salty, who is two-for-two on synthetic, or Kasseopia, who exits a rough-trip third in the El Camino Real Derby (G3) for Team Valor.

In the final analysis, I'm most concerned about Don't Be So Salty's ability to get the ninth furlong, especially if he's pressured by a rival, like Jensen, or if he's rated, which really hasn't worked with him before going a route of ground.

Kasseopia has a sprint pedigree on top, but his second dam placed in the 1 1/2-mile Epsom Oaks (G1) ,and so far he's acted very much like a colt who won't mind more distance. An even second in his North American debut last October in the Grey (G3) at Woodbine, he made up considerable ground in the El Camino Real at Golden Gate Fields after breaking well behind the rest of the field.

Trainer Graham Motion has reportedly been giving the colt more gate schooling. These are the same connections that won the 2011 Spiral with eventual Derby winner Animal Kingdom, so there's a lot going for him in this regard. Kasseopia (#8, 6-1) is the pick.

TwinSpires players can unlock double odds in the Spiral Stakes, but they have to earn it first by cashing a $25 Win bet on a single horse in at least two separate races before the Spiral.