Equibase Analysis: Known Agenda Could Upset Greatest Honour In Florida Derby

This Saturday’s Grade 1, $750,000 Curlin Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park brings together a field of 11 with 100 “Road to the Kentucky Derby” points going to the winner and guaranteeing a start in the gate on the first Saturday in May.

The likely betting favorite is Greatest Honour on the strength of back-to-back wins in the Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes and the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes. Trained by Shug McGaughey, who won the race in 2013 with Orb, Greatest Honour is the logical choice.

Then again, Todd Pletcher, who has won four of the last eight editions of the Florida Derby, saddles Known Agenda off a sparkling 11 length win over the track at the distance of the race.

Horses with positive results in recent stakes also must be counted as contenders and there are three of those. Papetu was third behind Greatest Honour in the Fountain of Youth after rallying from last of 10 in the early stages. Nova Rags finished second last month in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis Stakes. Spielberg ships in from California for trainer Bob Baffert off a runner-up effort in the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes. T

he rest of the field consists of a number of horses who have failed to be a factor in stakes or which are stepping up in class off maiden or allowance races. Among those, Collaborate was a 12 length winner at a mile (one-turn) last month in a maiden race and Quantum Leap won a maiden race at this nine furlong trip, both at Gulfstream Park. Soup and Sandwich won a two-turn race allowance race at Tampa. Sigiloso moves to dirt off a pair of modest efforts in stakes on grass including when fifth in the Palm Beach Stakes last month. Jirafales was fifth in both the Holy Bull and Fountain of Youth, while Southern Passage most recently was runner-up in a one mile allowance race at Gulfstream Park and sports a career record of one-for-eight.

There’s no doubt Greatest Honour has impressively dispatched a total of 17 other horses in winning the Holy Bull Stakes by nearly six lengths in January then the Fountain of Youth Stakes by a length and one-half last month. There’s also no arguing Todd Pletcher always has a very strong hand with whatever horse he starts in the Florida Derby, having won four of the last eight editions. That’s why Known Agenda will get slight preference over Greatest Honour as the top win contender in this year’s race.

In only the second start of his career last November and stretching out off a runner-up effort at six furlongs, Known Agenda won a race at the nine furlong trip of the Florida Derby and did so with the maturity of a much older horse as he battled head-and-head the entire last eighth of a mile, never giving up. After a poorer third place effort in the Remsen Stakes last December and following a poor fifth place finish in the Sam F. Davis Stakes in February, Known Agenda grew up big time to win last month at Gulfstream Park at this mile and one-eighth distance like a horse with a very bright future. After stalking in fourth position early, Known Agenda moved easily while four paths wide to the lead then opened up to win by 11 length.

Not only was the 103 Equibase Speed Figure higher than the 101 figure Greatest Honour earned winning the Fountain of Youth Stakes one day later, there’s little doubt Known Agenda could have run faster if needed. Although already proven at the trip, Known Agenda has breeding to win this race and many more stakes for three year olds. An easy STATS Race Lens query reveals his sire, Curlin, has had seven male three year old stakes winners at distances from nine to 10 furlongs from just 15 horses. That group includes Good Magic, Exaggerator and Vino Rosso. As such, I believe Known Agenda is going to take a big step forward to win the Florida Derby and stamp himself a strong contender for the Kentucky Derby as well.

Greatest Honour was defeated by Known Agenda by a head last November at the distance of the Florida Derby before winning three straight races including the two local preps for this race. In each win starting with the one on December 26 which earned a career-best 106 figure, Greatest Honour has shown the traits of a tremendous athlete, moving as the jockey asks and whooshing by the field. In the Fountain of Youth Stakes last month, Greatest Honour was five paths wide on the far turn when moving from eighth to fourth, then to the lead, while unthreatened in the late stages. Jose Ortiz has been aboard for the last two wins and rides back, and there will be a lot of adrenaline flowing in the race as his brother Irad Ortiz, Jr. will be aboard main threat Known Agenda. There’s little doubt Greatest Honour loves the Gulfstream Park surface where he is undefeated in three races, and the stretch battle between these two horses could be one for the ages.

Spielberg continues to earn points to run in the Kentucky Derby and has 17 points to date. With 40 points to the runner-up in the Florida Derby perhaps good enough to guarantee a spot in the gate in Louisville in May, that could be the key to this hard trying colt being competitive to the end. Although he earned a career best 103 figure breaking his maiden at a mile last November, Spielberg hasn’t improved since then although he did earn a 101 figure when winning the Los Alamitos Futurity in December. After a poor fourth in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes in January, Spielberg was clearly second by four lengths over the third horse in the Southwest Stakes in February although no match for winner Essential Quality, who won by a similar margin. One thing which is notable is in spite of all of Hall-of-Fame trainer Bob Baffert has achieved, he has never won the Florida Derby so when compared to the fact McGaughey and Pletcher have accounted for five of the last eight winners in this race, it appears Spielberg is going to have to greatly exceed his best effort to date to win the race although that is not an impossible task.

The rest of the field, with their best representative Equibase Speed Figures, is Collaborate (97), Jirafales (86), Nova Rags (89), Papetu (96), Quantum Leap (92), Sigiloso (99), Soup and Sandwich (96) and Southern Passage (93).

Win Contenders:
Known Agenda
Greatest Honour
Spielberg

Curlin Florida Derby Presented by Hill ‘N’ Dale Farms – Grade 1
Race 14 at Gulfstream Park
Saturday, March 27 – Post Time 6:40 PM E.T.
One Mile and One Eighth
Three Year Olds
Purse: $750,000

 

The post Equibase Analysis: Known Agenda Could Upset Greatest Honour In Florida Derby appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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