- Saturday’s Florida Derby is the strongest Kentucky Derby Prep race of this year’s cycle
- Four top Run for the Roses contenders will face each other in South Florida
- Where is the most betting value in this year’s Florida Derby?
Fifteen times the Florida Derby winner has gone on to capture the roses on the first Saturday in May. While it hasn’t happened since 2017, this year’s competitors at Gulfstream Park are collectively the best group of Derby contenders scheduled to race before everyone gathers in Louisville.
The latest Kentucky Derby odds indicate three of the seven most likely winners are running in Florida on Saturday, and a fourth horse with a big shot is in the field too.
If you understand how pari-mutuel wagering works, it is easy to understand why a race with four big-time contenders presents wagering value. None of them can get hammered at the window since there are so many viable options.
Let’s break-down Simplification, White Abarrio, Classic Causeway, Charge It, and the other seven horses and see where a bet might be justified.
2022 Louisiana Derby Odds
|King Of Truth||+5000|
Odds as of March 31
Virtually since it began in 1952 the Florida Derby has been a key prep for the Kentucky Derby. Nashua won two-thirds of the Triple Crown after winning the race at Gulfstream Park in 1955. A year later Needles won the Florida Derby and then added the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes.
The mile-and-an-eighth test awards 100 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the winner. The runner-up gets 40 points, with the third-place finisher awarded 20 points, and the fourth-place horse settling for 10 points. Regardless of what a horse has done up to this point, a first or second-place finish should get them into the Kentucky Derby and improve their futures odds.
Located between Miami and Fort Lauderdale in Florida, Gulfstream Park has made the Florida Derby the last of 14 races on a terrific card. Post time is slated for 6:38 pm ET. Temperatures are expected to be in the low 80s and rain is likely. CNBC will televise the race.
How Do You Handicap the Florida Derby?
Each of the four horses who are going to get most of the attention are coming off of wins, and three recently won graded stakes races. That means in order to assess their quality, you are going to need to make a judgment call. Did one look more impressive than the others? How will the race unfold? What do the analytics say?
The tepid favorite is Simplification. While he lost to White Abarrio in February’s Holy Bull Stakes, he returned to romp in last month’s Fountain of Youth Stakes.
All six of Simplification’s races have been at Gulfstream Park. He has three wins, and four times has reached a 90 Beyer Speed Rating, an indicator that helps measure and compare horses running at different distances, tracks, and surfaces. His career-high 96 in the Fountain of Youth is the second best figure anyone in the Florida Derby has run. Simplification showed versatility last time out. He usually has run on the lead but scored in the Fountain of Youth rallying from off the pace.
White Abarrio, Classic Causeway, and Charge It are Tough Foes
Simplification won’t win on Saturday because he found a soft spot. The three primary challengers have strong credentials. White Abarrio beat Simplification and earned a 97 Beyer in early February.
The 2022 debut of White Abarrio was a huge step up from his first three races. While he won a sprint at Gulfstream in September, and a route against four horses in October, it was his third-place finish in a particularly difficult stakes race at Churchill Downs in November that put him on the map. Losing to Smile Happy and Classic Causeway, who both returned to win prominent Derby preps, was noteworthy. Then White Abarrio took a leap forward in the Holy Bull. He has always been among the horses near the front throughout his races.
Classic Causeway won his debut by six lengths at Saratoga and then finished third in a grade one race at Keeneland. After finishing second behind Smile Happy, ahead of White Abarrio in November, he took some time off. He has returned to win back-to-back races at Tampa Bay Downs.
Classic Causeway has only reached a 90 Beyer figure once, in his career debut. He has been the favorite in four straight races, and always is forwardly placed. His latest win at Tampa came just three weeks ago.
Charge It is making his stakes debut Saturday. As the favorite in a maiden race in January, he finished second at Gulfstream Park. As an enormous chalk on February 12, he romped and posted a 93 Beyer figure.
Like several others in the Florida Derby, he has been on the lead in his races. It is unclear whether he can win using any other style.
The only other horse that is going to get bet at all is Pappacap. Though he has just two wins in seven races, he has consistently raced against top Derby contenders like Pinehurst, Corniche, and Epicenter. He hasn’t won since August. His top Beyer figure is 88.
Florida Derby Best Bet
Of the big four, we need to see more out of Classic Causeway. While it is very possible Charge It is the best of this group, he needs to prove that against top competition. The versatility of Simplification seems really beneficial, but when we last saw White Abarrio on the track he was making easy work of Simplification. White Abarrio seemed to take the leap last time out, and if he can remain at that level he’ll have a big chance in the Florida Derby.
Pick: White Abarrio (+300)