Scully’s Kentucky Derby Dream Bet picks for Florida Derby, Spiral

Profile Picture: James Scully

April 1st, 2016

The final round of the $25,000 Kentucky Derby Dream Bet begins Saturday with a pair of Kentucky Derby preps, the Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park and Spiral (G3) at Turfway. players who qualified are required to make a $15 win bet on all seven Road to the Kentucky points’ races in the final round, competing for a weekend trip for two to the 2016 Kentucky Derby and the opportunity to place a $25,000 Win bet.

The Florida Derby features a match-up between a pair of unbeaten titans in the 3-year-old division, Mohaymen and Nyquist, and looks strictly like a two-horse race.

I’ll give the edge to Nyquist, who ships east for a $1 million bonus after selling at Gulfstream’s 2-year-old sale last March. The Uncle Mo colt prepped for his first two-turn start this year with a sharp tally in the 7-furlong San Vicente (G2) at Santa Anita, registering a field-best 103 BRIS Speed rating, and should be primed for his best by Doug O’Neill.

Nyquist has a tactical advantage upon his main rival, racing on the front end in every race except a speed-laden Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), and looks capable of clearing his opponents early, settling into a comfortable rhythm on the engine with regular rider Mario Gutierrez. Percentages favor a speed-favoring oval on Saturday and that only benefits Nyquist.

Mohaymen doesn’t have to win the Florida Derby, with the Kentucky Derby and remaining Triple Crown races his main objective this spring, and despite Kiaran McLaughlin saying the Tapit would go all out, and there is no need to bottom out Mohaymen in the final prep. He’ll likely offer a serious challenge, but Nyquist may have enough in reserve on this occasion.

The Spiral features a full field of 12 on Polytrack and Grade 2 winner Airoforce should be a solid favorite, much lower than the 3-1 morning line.

But I’m concerned about Airoforce’s fitness – the Mark Casse-trained colt appeared to get very little out of a clunker in his 2016 bow, the Risen Star (G2), beaten 39 lengths in 10th, and didn’t record a workout for 35 days afterward, posting a couple of half-mile drills at Ocala Training Center in recent weeks. Out of a Cuvee mare, Airoforce has plenty of speed in his bloodlines and is stretching out to 1 1/8 miles for the first time. He could be a little short on Saturday.

Azar is my top choice. A Grade 2 winner on turf last year, the Todd Pletcher trainee opened the year with a courageous effort in the grassy Kitten’s Joy, overcoming trouble at the start and in the stretch to finish a close third (elevated to second via disqualification). The Scat Daddy colt showed his versatility last time, rallying from just off the pace to gamely capture his dirt debut in a Gulfstream allowance, and Azar figures to make a smooth transition to a synthetic track.

I like how Azar is coming into the race, with increasing BRIS Speed ratings and improving form, and Pletcher wins at a sterling 26% clip in the third start off the layoff. Outside posts have performed better than expected in dirt routes at Turfway and Azar possesses the tactical speed to avoid getting caught too wide into the first turn. He can prove best in this spot.

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