Thursday, March 26, 2009

2009 Florida Derby Preview

Not to overhype or sensationalize too much, but the 2009 Florida Derby is as much a coming out party for Dunkirk as it is a $750,000 Grade 1 Derby prep. The race also features the first two finishers in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (g. II) Quality Road and Theregoesjojo.

Now I'm generally skeptical of 3 year olds making their first start in graded stakes company in a race like the Florida Derby, but Dunkirk seems like the real deal. Check out his allowance win below where he was boxed out "10 wide" around the first turn, then just blew by his competition while being hand ridden by Garrett Gomez.

Usually sales toppers like Dunkirk fizzle out before ever hitting the track. This strapping grey colt by Unbridled's Song has proven to be an exception. Not many pedigrees are better than his as his dam Secret Status was an absolute monster on the track earning over $1 million and won the Kentucky Oaks (g. I) as a 3yo. She is a full sister to graded stakes winner Alumni Hall by A.P. Indy, and is out of a dam by Alydar and was Grade 1 placed in the Ashland Stakes. His looks obviously matched his pedigree as a yearling as he sold for $3,700,000 on day 2 of Keeneland's Yearling auction of 2007.

The primary competition in this race is Quality Road, who was one of the 3 colts I featured here in analysis of top Derby contenders. His impressive win in the Fountain of Youth Stakes earned a 113 Beyer Speed figure, and vaulted him to the top of most pundits top 10 lists.

The race seems legit, Quality Road stalked a length behind pacesetter This Ones for Phil and blitzed 6 furlongs in 1:09 2/5 before drawing off and winning by 4 1/4 in 1:35 flat. The 1 mile race was around only one turn, which is a slight concern here, and Dunkirk trainer Todd Pletcher has entered maiden Europe, another pricey yearling, to ensure an honest pace.

Other contenders include FOY 2nd place finisher Theregoesjojo, and Holy Bull also ran Danger to Society. Quality Road is a bounce candidate after running such a big race, and Dunkirk is a somewhat unknown quantity, although he doesn't face the toughest Grade 1 field ever assembled.

The Pick: Dunkirk lives up to the hype, he needs the earnings so you know he'll be ready to roll here. He's already won at 9 furlongs and has overcome trouble in his last race. Quality Road is already assured a spot in the Kentucky Derby, no need for him to over exert himself here, although his talent alone could lead him to victory. At 9/5 Dunkirk offers little value so I won't suggest a bet, unless you want to single Dunkirk in multi-race exotics.

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