Florida Derby Odds, Field & Betting Picks

The Kentucky Derby favorite is the headline act in Saturday’s G1 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park, with champion juvenile colt Forte returning to the fray at short odds to maintain his scintillating run of form. The opposition includes G2 winner Dubyuhnell, G2-placed Cyclone Mischief and the progressive Mage in a must-see contest that offers 100 RTKD qualifying points to the winner. Get here the latest 2023 Florida Derby Odds courtesy of Jazzsports.

2023 Florida Derby

G1, $1,000,000, 1m 1f dirt, 3yo, 6.40pm ET

This is the big one. The Florida Derby, the main event at Gulfstream Park on Saturday, has everything – a million-dollar purse, a standout record at producing Kentucky Derby winners, and the current favourite for this year’s ‘Run for the Roses’. Add in an RTKD qualifying points breakdown of 100-40-30-20-10, making it the gateway for at least two horses to reach Churchill Downs, and it’s certainly a race to savour.

The race revolves around Forte (4-5), last year’s champion two-year-old colt whose victories included the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, and who returned to action in sparkling fashion when rolling his rivals flat in the G2 Fountain of Youth here over a mile-sixteenth four weeks ago. He sat back off boilerplate fractions, made his move in the stretch and drew right off to win by a handsome four and a half lengths from G3 Holy Bull winner Rocket Can.

It was very impressive, and none of his rivals today can match him for class and form. But it is a horse race, and Forte does have a couple of things to overcome. The extra yardage shouldn’t be an issue given his strength at the finish in the Fountain of Youth, but there has been a lot of chatter about his potentially unfavourable outside post. 

Sure, he’s stuck outside in the 11-hole, and the stats say that’s a big disadvantage. But the few horses who might be fancied to beat him are out there too – the four at shortest odds are drawn 9 to 12 – and his evident talent should render his starting position irrelevant. If he’s at his best he could win from the car park, and trainer Todd Pletcher looks on course for a seventh Florida Derby win.

Only four horses are given a reasonable chance of toppling the favourite, and two of them ate his dust in the Fountain of Youth. Cyclone Mischief (8-1) ran third, beaten five and three-quarter lengths after laying down the fractions until Forte surged past, and Mage (10-1) was a length further back in fourth, always on the premises but no kick late. The boxcar longshot Il Miracolo (30-1) was more than 12 lengths further behind in sixth, and adding blinkers today won’t make much difference.

Of these, Mage is the most interesting, given that it was just his second start, his stakes debut, and his first time stretching out past a mile. He can be expected to move up and although he’s a bit of a wise-guy horse, perhaps too much talk about him, there’s ability there. It would be a surprise if Mage couldn’t improve past the inconsistent Cyclone Mischief, who is zero-for-three in stakes and was eaten alive in the G3 Holy Bull on his previous start. Cyclone Mischief doesn’t have to have the lead but he’ll be up there punching.


Two on the rebound

The other possibles, should Forte misfire, include Dubyuhnell (6-1), who looked a colt with a future when stalking the pace and winning a stretch duel to land the mile-eighth G2 Remsen at Aqueduct in December. He was then knocked out of contention early on in the G3 Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs, staggering home a distant eighth, but he shouldn’t be discounted on that Remsen showing, although he’s hung out wide in the 12-hole.

Also coming in with a puncher’s chance is Fort Bragg (5-1), who was scratched from the low-key Sunland Park Derby last weekend to wait for this, which seems an unusual decision. Fort Bragg beat the classy Reincarnate in a Santa Anita maiden but hasn’t cut much ice in two starts since, a well-beaten third in the G2 Los Alamitos Futurity and then fifth in the G2 San Felipe back at Santa Anita, both times behind major Churchill Downs player Practical Move.

It wouldn’t be a shock to see either or both of this pair make a bid for the board, but bettors will be taking a long leap of faith that they can recapture their previous sizzle.

Elsewhere, there’s not much going on. It would be a mistake to discount entirely the credentials of Jungfrau (20-1), given his pedigree/owner/trainer, and he got his only ‘win’ here over a mile-sixteenth when promoted to first place after interference from the winner. However, he then ran no sort of race at all in the G3 Withers at Aqueduct, beaten a city block into sixth – perhaps he could be given another chance.

Local trainer Saffie Joseph flooded the entry box with a quartet of longshots, none of them particularly easy to like. The only one with stakes experience is West Coast Cowboy (20-1), who won his maiden at this track and came back for the G3 Holy Bull, in which he outran 58-1 odds to finish third, beaten three lengths. 

More of that could put him in the picture here, and he’s inexperienced enough to have scope for improvement. He’s Joseph’s best shot at following up last year’s win with White Abarrio.

His barnmates look like they’re just here for the beer – Mr Peeks (30-1) is a two-race maiden who has never gone beyond six furlongs, and could be part of the speed; Nautical Star (30-1) is coming off a nose victory in a six-furlong maiden at Oaklawn Park; and Mr Ripple (30-1) has been beaten in two allowances since thrashing Il Miracolo by nine and a quarter lengths here over a mile on debut.

The blinkers come off Shaq Diesel (30-1), twice a winner here in minor company but tenth in the G2 Risen Star at the Fair Grounds last time, and almost certainly out of his depth now.

2023 Florida Derby Odds & Prediction

The only thing about FORTE that makes little appeal is his odds – he has a huge class edge, is coming off a very impressive comeback win, and as long as he gets a clean trip from his outside post he will be very, very hard to beat.

JungfrauPaco Lopez+2200
West Coast CowboySonny Leon+2200
Shaq DieselMiguel Angel Vasquez+3300
MageLuis Saez+1100
Mr. PeeksEdwin Gonzalez+3300
Nautical StarLeonel Reyes+3300
Il MiracoloJesus M. Rios+3300
Mr. RippleEdgard J. Zayas+3300
Cyclone MischiefJavier Castellano+900
Fort BraggJoel Rosario+600
ForteIrad Ortiz, Jr.-200
DubyuhnellJose L. Ortiz+700

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