Our colt El Padrino (Pulpit) as well as the Michael Matz trained Union Rags (Dixie Union) will join seven other competitive three-year-olds, including the Dale Roman’s trained News Pending (Harlan’s Holiday) and Patrick Byrne trained Take Charge Indy (A.P. Indy), running the 1 ? mile race.
After a strong two-year-old season which ended in a second place finish behind Hansen (Tapit) in the Grade 1 Breeder’s Cup Juvenile, Union Rags began his three-year-old campaign with a win in the Grade 2 Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes on February 26th. The colt went the 1 1/16 miles at Gulfstream Park in 1:42?, easily besting the field of seven by four lengths under jockey Julien Leparoux. Most recently working 4fl at Palm Meadows Training Center in :49 flat, the Chadds Ford Stable colt drew post position six for the Florida Derby and is the favorite, set at morning line odds of 6-5.
After drawing an unfavorable tenth post position in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby in early March, Take Charge Indy, owned by Charles and Maribeth Sandford, will make his first start since finishing in second place behind El Padrino in a January 29th allowance race at Gulfstream Park. The colt looks to be in good form coming off the layoff having recently worked 5fl in 1:01 at Palm Meadows Training Center.
Other competition includes Fort Loudon (Awesome of Course) breaking from the rail, News Pending who came in second behind Union Rags in the Fountain of Youth, the Fountain of Youth’s fourth place finisher Neck ‘N Neck (Flower Alley), the Roman’s trained Z Camelot (Smart Strike) who is attempting to break his maiden, Bartolome (Toccet) whose only career win was over a sloppy Calder track last September, and breaking from the outside post the Agustin Bezara trained Reveron (Songandaprayer) coming off a layoff having finished third in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on February 4th. All horses will be carrying 122 lbs.
Although the Florida Derby field is impressive, we’re more concerned with El Padrino’s maturity and well-being than which horses he is facing. We could have entered him in alternative prep races and run against lighter competition, but decided that keeping him in Florida was the best option. Trainer Todd Pletcher explained that “we certainly could have gone other places where it probably would have been a little easier, but we felt it was more a case of managing our horse the way we want as opposed to handicapping the race.” Let’s Go Racing co-founder Kevin Scatuorchio remarked “we’re confident in our horse and feel like we are in the position not to dodge anyone.”
With morning line odds of 2-1 El Padrino will break from the eight post position. Having previously run two turns at Gulfstream Park in his two length allowance victory going the 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.3, we’re confident that El Padrino is ready to square off against the competition. After beating Mark Valeski (Proud Citizen) by a nose in the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds Race Course on February 25th, he’s continued to work well, recently breezing 4fl in :49 flat at Palm Meadows Training Center on March 25th under Javier Castellano.
We’re coming into this race pleased with El Padrino’s works since the Risen Star and encouraged by his post position and the added distance. Having previously run up to 1 1/16 miles, we think stretching him out the extra 1/16 mile will prove beneficial. Breaking from the eight post position will also be advantageous. Castellano stated “I’m very comfortable with the post... I’d rather have Union Rags inside me than outside me.” El Padrino has proved that breaking from an outside post position isn’t problematic, having also started from the eighth position in the Risen Star.
We are both confident in our colt and optimistic about his performance. The Florida Derby will be the eleventh race on Gulfstream Park’s card this Saturday. Post time is 5:40pm with race coverage beginning at 5pm on NBC Sports.