HALLANDALE BEACH, FL., March 25, 2021 — At first blush, all the major players are recognizable and appear to have a significant talent edge over their rivals. But what makes the handicapping exercise somewhat vexing is that it might be easier to project a winner than the actual pacesetter.
Who’s out first? I don’t know. Third base…
Let’s think the puzzle through and see where we land. Below is the field listed by post and program number order, with early line odds:
1-NOVA RAGS (12-1): Taking a flyer here guessing that he will set the pace. Bill Mott and Junior Alvarado are very good at their day jobs and presumably good handicappers, too. They will look at the lineup and wonder who will be in front. When no horse leaps off the page, they may conclude: Why not us? Why not, indeed. When last seen he was a game second to stablemate Candy Man Rocket in the G3 Sam F Davis. Previously, he broke maiden on debut at 6 furlongs and won Tampa Bay’s Pasco at seven, and his pace figures in the flat-mile G3 Gotham would have him placed forwardly here. He has the rail, so it’s either lead or get out of the way. A leave and a tuck could be the perfect trip to victory. Mott admitted it will take a top effort, first or second, to start thinking Kentucky Derby. We couldn’t agree more. Talent but with much to prove.
2-QUANTUM LEAP (20-1): The chances of your still being competitive in what’s left of your NCAA Tournament bracket are about equal to this colt’s chance of victory. He does have the benefit of a surface win at the distance, a career first in both categories and makes his third start off a layup, precisely where the positives end.
3-JIRAFALES (30-1): Has been compromised by troubled starts in each of three career runs and trainer Gustavo Delgado is a profitable 22% efficient in the LAY-3 scenario. Blinkers got him a little closer to Greatest Honour in their second meeting, but he still has 10 lengths to make up. Was 106-1 in the G2 Fountain of Youth; looks like more of the same here.
4-SOUTHERN PASSAGE (30-1): Finished well for place behind undefeated prospect Prevalence at one mile here MAR 11, has distance aptitude on both sides of his pedigree, and it’s Dale Upset Romans with fellow hardboot Corey Lanerie in the tack. But this is a completely different ballgame.
5-KNOWN AGENDA (5-1): It’s not so that he’s the only two-time winner at today’s trip, had an excuse when he couldn’t catch his breath early in the Sam F Davis and came charging strongly too late, that he showed a lot more focus on blinkers taking his surface debut, or even that he was the last horse to finish ahead of Greatest Honor. It’s the fact that the two of them finished heads apart at this trip on NOV 8 and it was 21 lengths back to the third finisher, he came back to win his next start. He loses Lasix today but keeps the blinkers and Irad Ortiz and is saddled by a man looking to win this storied event for a sixth time. Major player.
6-SIGILOSO (30-1): Broke maiden in his second start around two turns and has raced back twice under similar conditions with no success. One of two here saddled by Antonio Sano. If the intention were to go turf to dirt around two turns over a kinder surface, it’s mission accomplished. Now comes the really hard part.
7-GREATEST HONOUR (6-5): Went to visit him one morning at Payson Park last week and he sure is an imposing individual. He impressed with his stature, presence, and was very tolerant for a Tapit, even if he were a tad impatient, shooing a visitor’s hand away when an interloper tried to love on him a little. Unfortunately, the barn was out of peppermints we hoped would act as a peace offering. We thanked the staff for their hospitality, wished the colt luck and we were on our way. His talent level is unquestioned and great horses are supposed to overcome adversity. Saturday’s stiffest competition will be the projected lack of pace on paper in the deepest field of his career.
8-SOUP AND SANDWICH (20-1): Interesting Florida Derby dark horse. Undefeated in two starts, he has sprint speed based on his wire win on debut setting a solid pace at 6-1/2 furlongs, winning by 7-1/2 lengths at the end then got two turn experience and conditioning at deepish Tampa Bay going one mile and 40 yards in second start. Hard to gauge that performance given that he beat only two rivals. By all-everything Into Mischief, grandson of Tapit worked a bullet and near bullet at Palm Meadows in preparation for this and Mark Casse knows how to do this. In Johnny Velazquez he has the best position rider in the game. Legitimate price shot.
9-COLLABORATE (6-1): An Into Mischief in every stall–at least in the one right next door. Disappointed in a heavily bet debut in which he finished fifth, beaten less than two lengths, it was a race in which the third horse came back to break maiden at 7 furlongs by a city block. This colt came back at one mile and broke maiden by an even dozen, driven to establish margin leaving headstretch and won eased up inside the final sixteenth, living up to the barn hype and betting dollars. There’s no telling how good he can be, and these two Into Mischief colts are capable of showing high speed assuming a clean break for either or both and prove the key to victory ultimately for any of the major horses. Fascinating that they are drawn outside and will need to establish position given their lack of experience.
10-SPIELBERG (4-1): worked his way East by virtue of his excellent second to undefeated juvenile champion Essential Quality following a very troubled start and demonstrating a strong late kick, unexpected given the seven races that preceded the G3 Southwest in the slop at Oaklawn Park. The bad news is that many days of biblical rains rendered the inside portion of the surface so deep it required shoveling the goop off the inside portion of the track to the other side of the fence so that the rain and a place to run off as the surface dried—in short, one of the deadest rails we’ve ever seen. And here comes Spielberg down the center of the track. Comes off a Bullet Bob-style 59 2/5, second best of 84 at 5 furlongs Mr 21. Pedigree, experience, “California speed” and Javier make him a formidable rival.
11-PAPETU (15-1): Has danced all the South Florida prep dances and acquitted himself admirably with a Mucho Macho Man placing, losing third by less than a length in the G3 Holy Bull and a good third from a wide draw in the G2 Fountain of Youth, coming from last into second at headstretch but settled for third when the moderately-paced loose-leading Drain the Clock stayed on with the help of inside position for the first-finish-line mile and a sixteenth. The Dialed On colt is hardy stock, as his three-quarter mile preparation on MAR 20 over a deeper “Calder” surface in 1:12 4/5 attests. Whatever the dynamics, he’s a tryer. Of course, he is terribly drawn in post 11 which is only one slip wider than his starting point last out. Could be the “O Besos” of the Florida Derby.
WORTHY FAVORITE: GREATEST HONOUR
EARLY LINE VALUE: KNOWN AGENDA
EXOTICA: Known Agenda to win at 3-1 or greater. Exacta Box Greatest Honour and Known Agenda. Trifecta Wheel: 5.7 // 5.7 // 22.214.171.124.11. Superfecta Wheel: 7 // 5 // 126.96.36.199.11 // 188.8.131.52.11. Superfecta Wheel: 7 // 184.108.40.206.11 // 5 // 220.127.116.11.11.
Suggested wagers always at proportional minimums: $1 Exacta, 50-Cent Trifecta, 10-Cent Superfecta. $2 Win. Larger depending on bankroll and risk tolerance