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Forte Takes On Big Field In Final Ky Derby Tune-Up

BC Juvenile Champ Heavy Favorite in Florida Derby

Todd Pletcher-trained Forte goes after his sixth victory in seven career races when he takes on 11 horses in the $1 million Grade 1 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park on a Saturday that headlines a pair of Kentucky Derby prep races.

The Florida Derby goes off as Race 14 on the card at about 6:40 p.m. while the $1.25 million Arkansas Derby is Race 12 at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark. on Saturday. Both races will be run at 1⅛ miles and award 100 Kentucky Derby points to the winner, followed by 40-30-20-10.

Irad Ortiz Jr a board Forte ( far left #4)
Irad Ortiz Jr a board Forte ( far left #4) - Andy Lyons/Getty Images/afp

Forte, who rolled to a 4½-length win in the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream in Hallandale, Fl. on March 4, drew the 11 post and may have his toughest competitors break on either side of him with Fort Bragg (10) and Dubyuhnell (12).

The Arkansas Derby appears wide open with Risen Star winner Angel of Empire, Holy Bull champ Rocket Can and deep closer Red Route One – second in the Rebel Stakes and Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn earlier this year – headlining a tough group to handicap.

Will Forte Be Challenged?

Eclipse-winning jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. will hope to carve out a trip like he had in the Fountain of Youth for Forte, laying just off the speed before taking charge near the top of the stretch and cruising home.

There could be an abundance of speed with Cyclone Mischief (9), who hung on for third in the Fountain of Youth, and three of trainer Saffie Joseph Jr.’s colts Mr. Peeks (5), Nautical Star (6) and Mr. Ripple (8). Mage (4), who finished a little over six lengths behind Forte in the Fountain of Youth, may also show speed.

Fort Bragg probably would have been the favorite in the Kentucky Derby odds for last Sunday’s Sunland Derby in New Mexico before being scratched. The fifth-place finisher in the San Felipe at Santa Anita in February has been transferred to trainer Tim Yakteen’s barn from Bob Baffert, who is still under suspension by Churchill Downs and unable to earn Derby points for his horses.

Dubyuhnell was the favorite in the Sam Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs in February, but steadied and did not unleash any kind of rally to settle for eighth. Trainer Danny Gargan’s colt won the Remsen in the mud at Aqueduct last year.

The wild card could be West Coast Cowboy (2), who closed for third in the Holy Bull for Joseph. Last year’s Kentucky Derby-winning jockey Sonny Leon will ride.

This should only be a workout for Forte, who is the current favorite in the Kentucky Derby odds at +270.

How the track is playing to speed may determine who fills out the trifecta. Fort Bragg,West Coast Cowboy and Dubyuhnell probably have the best chance if the track is welcome to closers while Mage, Cyclone Mischief or Mr. Ripple could stick around if speed is holding.

Bet 11 over 2 and 10 in the trifecta. For more value if you are online gambling, perhaps sneak II Miracolo (7) into the trifecta. Trainer Antonio Sano’s colt was fifth in the Holy Bull and sixth in the Fountain of Youth.


Reincarnate Gets Last Chance

Reincarnate settled for a rough-trip third place in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn on Feb 25 and looks to improve on that effort in the Arkansas Derby.

The son of Good Magic has not been out of the money in six career starts with two wins and is the morning-line favorite in the racebook at 5-2. Yakteen took over as the trainer from Baffert before the Rebel, and Hall of Fame jockey John Velasquez is aboard as Reincarnate draws the 8 post.

Red-hot trainer Brad Cox sends out Angel of Empire (6), who roared down the stretch to win the Risen Star at Fair Grounds on Feb. 18 after a second-place finish in the Smarty Jones at Oaklawn on Jan. 1.

The two other headliners include Rocket Can (7), who was an un-threatening second behind Forte in the Fountain of Youth last time out for trainer Bill Mott, and Steve Asmussen’s closer Red Route One (10). The son of Gun Runner looked like he might win the Rebel in the final furlong, but settled for second behind Confidence Game.

Three wild cards could play a part, including Asmussen’s speedy Harlocap (3). Two Eagles River (5), a colt by Preakness winner Cloud Computing, also won an Allowance race gate to wire on Feb. 19 and Airtime (5) is 2 for 2 at Oaklawn.

We think Reincarnate will work a better trip and Airtime could be a real threat if you are betting online. Bet 8 over the 5,6 and 10 in exactas and trifectas.

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