Mucciolo’s Sophomore Spotlight: Florida Derby & Louisiana Derby Previews

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March 30th, 2017

Florida Derby (G1):

GUNNEVERA gets a tough post while widest of 10 (Battalion Runner to scratch) in Saturday’s $1 million Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park. Trained by Antonio Sano, the impressive son of Dialed In made a believer out of me when dominating a nice field in the Fountain of Youth (G2) and has the pedigree to succeed at longer trips being out of an Unbridled mare. This might be a good time to bet against the Florida-bred colt given the post, though anything near Gunnevera’s best keeps him in the first flight of Kentucky Derby contenders.

I never dismiss the Todd Pletcher stable, which has already been a force in this season’s prep races, and the conditioner will saddle an interesting prospect in ALWAYS DREAMING. The colt has decimated maiden and entry-level allowance fields since being transferred to Pletcher and will receive his first true test today. Dark bay son of hot young sire Bodemeister is bred to be more of a miler type and since he was bet to odds of 1-5 and 1-10 in his two wins, I have to think he hasn’t beaten much of late. The colt will have to prove to me that he belongs with his more accomplished foes at this stage of his development, but it won’t be a shock if he does.

Trainer Dale Romans will saddle IMPRESSIVE EDGE, a runaway winner in two of his last three outings. By Harlan’s Holiday, the $400,000 colt picks a salty spot for a route debut after displaying a fine turn of foot going one turn. He should get ample pace to run at in the stretch and I am excited to see how good the colt is, but don’t know how the $400,000 colt will fit at nine panels. He does add intrigue for a trainer who gets his horses to finish. 

STATE OF HONOR has improved in 2017 and is lauded for his “showing up” in a trio of stakes races in succession, though he has to take that next step to make a believer out of me. I appreciate the ability of THREE RULES quite a bit and his third in the Fountain of Youth after setting swift early splits was admirable, though I stand pat that I feel that he is best at middle distances. Louisiana Derby (G2):

Risen Star S. (G2) hero GIRVIN looks the one to beat in Saturday’s $1 million Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds. The Joe Sharp charge is lightly raced with just a trio of outings under his belt but is perfect from a pair of dirt runs over the track and appears to be training forwardly in preparation. Dark bay son of Tale Ekati posted a superb 112 BRIS Late Pace figure going 1 1/16 miles last time and the added ground should pose little-to-no problem for the dark bay who has room for improvement. A strong showing can catapult him toward the forefront of a questionable sophomore crop.

GUEST SUITE rallied well in the Risen Star after a slow start and continues to train in swift fashion for conditioner Neil Howard. Son of Quality Road has obvious ability and a nice foundation under him with six career starts, including a nice local win in the Lecomte (G3). The added ground should benefit the Kentucky-bred and gelding remains interesting prospect going forward. Guest Suite showed good tactical foot in the Lecomte and appears live the third time off the layoff beneath Robby Albarado.

LOCAL HERO was third in the Risen Star after running off to a big lead down the backstretch and is surely a threat if he can harness his speed just a bit. $500,000 son of Hard Spun has never run a bad one and I love that he hung on for a minor award when he had every right to pack it in after being passed in the stretch for trainer Steve Asmussen. Dark bay colt gives me the impression of a horse with a whole lot of natural speed and ability who could surely win this race and take the next step to the Kentucky Derby. I will play him in everything in this spot as a wild card with room for improvement.

PATCH has just two lifetime races under his belt but earned a 101 BRIS Speed rating taking down a huge maiden field at Gulfstream Park last time out. Todd Pletcher pupil draws well at the rail and is bred to run long being out of an A. P. Indy mare, as well. Speedy sort is clearly a talent with a very high ceiling and I like the aggressive move by his connections to jump right into these waters with just two runs under his belt. A pair of bullet moves in advance by the Calumet homebred hints that he is ready to take a crack at this type of field, and I will know a lot more about the son of Union Rags after this try.

The rest of this field simply looks lengths behind this top quartet at this stage of their development. is offering a $5,000 Pick 4 Bonus at Fair Grounds Saturday. Make sure to “Opt In” and if you cash a winning ticket on any Pick 4, you’ll split $5,000 with all the other winners on TwinSpires