Derby Hopefuls Clash at Fair Grounds, Gulfstream Park

With just seven major Kentucky Derby preps to be decided, the next three Saturdays are very important for connections of promising three-year-olds that want to make it to the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday of May.

The $1 million Florida Derby (G1) and the $750,000 Louisiana Derby (G2) will be contested on Saturday, with 100-40-20-10 points up for grabs to the top four finishers of each race as part of the Road to the Derby series of races. A win or runner up finish virtually assures a ticket to Louisville, and a subpar performance will leave some Derby hopefuls on the sidelines.

Nine will do battle in the Florida Derby including the top two finishers of the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) on Feb. 21. In that race, Upstart crossed the wire in front but was disqualified for interfering with Itsaknockout and was placed second.

Upstart put in one of the most impressive efforts this spring among Kentucky Derby horses in his victory in the Holy Bull Stakes on Jan. 24. The colt has been as low as 12-1 in early Kentucky Derby betting odds, and currently is listed at 20-1.

Itsaknockout remained undefeated in three starts thanks to the disqualification of Upstart. The Todd Pletcher trainee was making his stakes debut in the Fountain of Youth. The colt was listed at 40-1 before the Fountain of Youth and currently stands at 20-1.

Pletcher sends out Materiality, who earned a huge speed figure winning the ungraded Islmaorada Handicap at Gulfstream Park on March 6. With no Derby points, the colt must come up with a good finish to make it into the Kentucky Derby field.

The Louisiana Derby drew a field of nine including the top four finishers of the local prep, the Risen Star Stakes (G2) which was won by International Star, who also won the Lecomte (G3) over the Fair Grounds main track.

Trained by Michael Maker, the colt is 20-1 in early Kentucky Derby wagering and likely will be sent off as the betting favorite on Saturday.

The runner up in the Risen Star was War Story, who was off a beat slow in the outing, beaten just a length for the top spot. The gelding ran second in the Lecomte as well and is in need of Derby points. His price for the Kentucky Derby is at 40-1.

Pletcher sends out Stanford, who was second in the Islamora Handicap, and Mr. Z may take some betting action off his seven in the money finishes in stakes company. The D. Wayne Lukas trainee is 50-1 among Kentucky Derby contenders.

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