Road to the Kentucky Derby: Analyzing the Florida Derby

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The Road to the Kentucky Derby enters the second leg of the Championship Series, the richest points races in the series, with the Grade 1 Florida Derby. The 1 1/8 mile race at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Fla. has produced a whopping 22 Kentucky Derby winners. In addition to the $1,000,000 purse, it offers a total of 170 points to the top four finishers in Churchill Downs’ Road to the Kentucky Derby points system.

Under the Kentucky Derby points system, the top four finishers in the 19-race “Kentucky Derby Prep Season” schedule of races are awarded 10-4-2-1 points, respectively. This “prep” portion of the schedule began in late September and concluded with the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes on Feb. 18. The two-leg Kentucky Derby Championship Series began Feb. 23 and awards the top four finishers in the listed races 50-20-10-5 points, respectively for the first leg of eight races and 100-40-20-10 points accordingly for the second leg of seven races. A wild card, which includes the Grade 3 Coolmore Lexington at Keeneland (Apr. 20) and the Grade 3 Derby Trial at Churchill Downs (Apr. 27) awards points of 20-8-4-2, respectively.

Kiaran McLaughlin’s Holy Bull (G2) winner, Cairo Prince, heads a field of eight in the 63rd running of the Florida Derby (G1). Installed as the 9-5 morning-line favorite, this son of Pioneerof the Nile has a nearly spotless record of three wins and one second place finish, a nose defeat, in four career starts. Cairo Prince has not raced since the Jan. 25 Holy Bull victory, which he won off a two-month layoff. Currently sitting in 19th place on the Kentucky Derby points leaderboard with 14 points, Cairo Prince will need to hit the board to ensure a berth in the Kentucky Derby. Jockey Luis Saez, who’s been aboard for all four starts, will be in the irons Saturday.

The pressure of Saturday’s race hasn’t affected McLaughlin’s opinion of the horse. “I've had some three-year-olds who were second in the Kentucky Derby with Closing Argument (2005), but we really haven't had a three-year-old to compare with Cairo Prince,” said McLaughlin this week on a national conference call. “No, it's only Invasor (2006 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner) as an older horse did things like he's doing, and so this is our best chance for sure.”

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