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Road to Kentucky Derby: Last Call for Fierceness in Florida

The road to the Kentucky Derby shifts into high gear with a pair of Grade 1s and a Grade 2 on Saturday. The Grade 1 Florida Derby, Grade 1 Arkansas Derby and Grade 2 UAE Derby will help shape the Run for the Roses field. Fierceness and Conquest Warrior, the two favorites in the Florida Derby, were saddled with poor post positions that could hinder their chances.

 

Road to Kentucky Derby: Last Call for Fierceness in Florida
Road to Kentucky Derby: Last Call for Fierceness in Florida

Sierra Leone, listed at +600 at the BetUS racebook as the favorite in the Kentucky Derby odds, waits for the Blue Grass Stakes on April 6 at Keeneland.

  • Saturday’s races offer Kentucky Derby qualifying points on a 100-50-25-15-10 basis, with the top two finishers all but assured an option in the 20-horse Derby starting gate.
  • A fast track is expected for all three races.

 

Florida Derby: Favorites Saddled With Poor Posts

  • Track: Gulfstream Park, Hallandale Beach, Fla.
  • Distance: 1⅛ miles
  • Post time: 6:42 p.m. ET (Race 14)
  • Florida Derby Live Stream: TVG

 

The post position draw yielded bad news for Conquest Warrior and Fierceness, who drew the 9 and 10 holes. Since the Gulfstream dirt course was reshaped some 15 years ago, horses starting from post 9 are 2-for-105, while post 10 is 5-for-75. But all is not lost, according to seven-time Florida Derby-winning Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher.

“Normally I’d be afraid of the outside post, but Forte won from the 11 last year, so you can overcome that,” Pletcher told DRF.com about the would-be 2023 Kentucky Derby favorite who was scratched the morning of the race.

Fierceness, the 2023 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile champion and 2-year-old Eclipse Award winner, has a lot to prove. Fierceness is the favorite in the horse racing odds at 8-5 on the morning line despite a lackluster comeback race in the Holy Bull. He finished third that day at 1-5.

Conquest Warrior is the wise-guy horse at 3-1. The $1 million Keeneland purchase, trained by Shug McGaughey, is 2-for-3 lifetime after winning an allowance race at Gulfstream on March 1. Conquest Warrior must finish first or second to earn enough Kentucky Derby qualifying points.

Hades, 3-for-3 lifetime, should make the lead from post 2 and will be tough to run down under Paco Lopez. Joe Orseno trains the son of Awesome Slew.

Mage finished second last year before winning the Kentucky Derby. Orb (2013), Nyquist (2016) and Always Dreaming (2017) won the Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby. Maximum Security, who won the Florida Derby in 2019, crossed the finish line first in the Kentucky Derby, but was disqualified because of interference at the top of the stretch.

Arkansas Derby: Baffert Trains Top Contender in Muth

  • Track: Oaklawn Park, Hot Springs, Ark.
  • Distance: 1⅛ miles
  • Post time: 7:47 p.m. ET (Race 12)
  • TV: Fox Sports 2

 

Bob Baffert can’t make any Kentucky Derby news. The trainer is ineligible for one more year, but that didn’t stop him from entering Muth in the Arkansas Derby. Muth is the 8-5 ML favorite with Timberlake listed at 9-5 in the Las Vegas odds. Mystik Dan, who owns the field’s best Beyer speed figure at 101 – albeit on a muddy track – is offered at 5-2.

These three are expected to attract the most attention at the BetUS racebook, but there is an intriguing horse that will surely offer value. Liberal Arts (15-1) has a license to continue improving as he makes his second start of 2023. The son of Arrogate was third, 8¼ lengths behind Mystik Dan in the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn in February. That came on a muddy track, so Liberal Arts could be better on dry footing. Tyler Gaffalione rides.

UAE Derby: Forever Young Carries Japanese Flag

  • Track: Meydan Racecourse, Dubai, United Emirates
  • Distance: 1 3/16 miles
  • Post time: 9:50 a.m. ET (Race 5)
  • TV: Fox Sports 2

 

A Japan-based horse has never won the Kentucky Derby. That could change this year. Forever Young, though, must finish first or second in the UAE Derby. Forever Young, fourth choice at +1100 in the BetUS Kentucky Derby odds, is the 9-5 ML favorite in the field of 13.

Forever Young is 4-for-4 lifetime after running down the leader late to win the Grade 3 Saudi Derby in February. He is expected to be even better in his second start of the year.

 

 

Questions of the Day

Who is favored to win the Florida Derby?


Fierceness, the 2023 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile champion, is the 8-5 morning-line favorite to win the Florida Derby.

Who is favored to win the Arkansas Derby?


Muth, trained by Bob Baffert, is the 8-5 morning-line favorite to win the Arkansas Derby.

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