Kentucky Derby winner Orb, with exercise rider Jennifer Patterson aboard, walks in his barn past trainer Shug McGaughey at Belmont Park after a workout, Monday, May 13, 2013 in Elmont, N.Y. Orb is scheduled to travel to Pimlico later in the day to prepare for the Preakness, Saturday, May 18. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
- Saturday’s Florida Derby will be the final Kentucky Derby tune-up for top contender Greatest Honour
- Several interesting price options loom as serious threats to the favorite
- How should you bet a prep that has produced 15 Kentucky Derby winners
The season for major Kentucky Derby prep races is here.
Last week Hot Rod Charlie won the first 100 point prep race of the season, the Louisiana Derby. The bigger news was likely Run for the Roses favorite Life is Good was ruled out of the Triple Crown because of an injury.
Saturday’s Florida Derby will help handicappers recalibrate. How good is Greatest Honour? On paper, it appears he’ll like the longer distance, and Hall of Famer trainer Shug McGaughey used this path before winning in Louisville with Orb in 2013.
Let’s look closely at the entrants, and see where we can identify betting value.
2021 Florida Derby Odds
|Soup and Sandwich||+2000|
Odds from March 24
The purse for the mile-and-an-eighth Florida Derby is $750,000. It is the last of 14 races to be run at Gulfstream Park on Saturday. Post time is slated for 6:35 pm EST. The weather is supposed to be warm, in the high 70’s or early 80’s, and dry. NBC Sports Network will air the race.
With Life is Good off the Triple Crown path, Kentucky Derby odds have shifted recently. Greatest Honour is among the favorites, and with a good performance this weekend he’ll be chalky if healthy in May.
A winner of three straight, Greatest Honour seems to have taken a major step forward this year. He wasn’t bet strongly in his debut and finished third at Saratoga in September. It took him four races to break his maiden. However, January’s Holly Bull Stakes was super impressive.
He backed up that performance with an equally dominating Fountain of Youth Stakes victory last month despite having to run wide.
While Greatest Honour is a completely deserving favorite and appears as though he will excel with more distance, he does not need to win on Saturday. He already has enough points to make the starting gate in Louisville, and should not be giving an all-out sort of effort if it isn’t required.
Spielberg was supposed to be trainer Bob Baffert’s next major Triple Crown threat. A $1 million purchase, the son of Union Rags has failed to live up to expectations thus far. He has two wins in eight career starts but has earned more than $400,000 and hit the board six times.
Spielberg may have run his best career race late last month in a runner-up effort to Essential Quality in the Southwest Stakes. He overcame trouble and could be coming into his own. He also may have just liked the sloppy surface.
Known Agenda has two wins in five races but has been the favorite four times. He dominated a lesser group last time out.
Before rebounding, Known Agenda ran poorly as the chalk in a Stakes race at Tampa Bay Downs on February 6. His two tries against stakes competition have not gone well. That said, trainer Todd Pletcher tends to have his horses running their best when it counts.
There is reason to be bullish on lightly raced Collaborate. A $600,000 purchase, he ran fifth in a sprint race under sloppy conditions in his debut. His second career race was a dominating effort.
Try number three for Collaborate comes against much stiffer competition. He is deserving of this opportunity and could be special.
Nova Rags is trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott. While Mott has won lots of big races over the years, his horses rarely debut impressively particularly on dirt. Nova Rags began his career with a win at Belmont Park in October. After a fourth-place performance in a stakes race in New York, he began 2021 with a victory at Tampa Bay Downs.
He followed up the victory with a runner-up performance in a graded stakes at Tampa. Nova Rags very well may offer some value.
Soup and Sandwich is the type of dart that if he wins could make your day really memorable. If you don’t love the favorites, this two-for-two prospect has Hall of Fame connections, trainer Mark Casse and jockey John Velazquez. He won his debut, against state breds at Gulfstream in a sprint, and followed up with a route victory against open competition in an optional claimer at Tampa Bay Downs.
Florida Derby Best Bet
There are really two ways to look at this event. Either Greatest Honour towers over the field and anything at better than even-money is a bargain, or it is fairly wide-open.
The top contenders are reasonable but flawed. If looking beyond the favorite, Collaborate and Nova Rags each seem very sensible. Collaborate is more eagerly backed because the upside seems highest.
Dave Friedman has covered professional and college sports for two decades. From ESPN to the Associated Press, Regional Sports Networks, Metro Networks, and many local outlets, he has written about and broadcast major and minor events throughout the country.