Taking a shot in the Florida Derby; taking Frankel in the El Camino Real

By Dick Downey

Six facts lead us to choose THE CLIFF'S EDGE in Saturday's Florida Derby.

(1) That 3 of 25 breeze, his latest, persuades us he should be able to get into the mix more quickly than he did in the Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on 2-21. We are looking for an early run more in line with his win in the Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs last November.

(2) Along these same lines, he's in post position 1 today. He was in the outside post, number 11, in the Sam F. Davis and had to go five wide. Saturday's post is certainly not an ideal one for him, but it's better than the outside post for sure. He ran his highest Beyer number from post 2 in the Grade III Iroquois Stakes.

(3) The extra sixteenth mile of the Florida Derby should benefit him. Whether or not he gets into the mix of this race reasonably early, his strong suit is the far turn move and the ability to get down the lane.

(4) Nick Zito chose to put him in this race, not the softer Tampa Bay Derby. Of course, it could argued that the colt didn't do well there in his last, so why send him back? Your call on this issue.

(5) This is his second race off a November layoff, and so we expect improvement. Finally (6), we like his morning line of 12-1.

Richard Violette's READ THE FOOTNOTES is our second choice. He's won three straight graded stakes, including the Grade II Fountain Of Youth Stakes over this track on 2-14. He has forward, tractable speed which works well at Gulfstream Park. Violette is winning at a 23% rate at this meet.

Tractable speed-wise, the main competition to 'FOOTNOTES is VALUE PLUS, our third choice. We think it's obvious he's the best one-turn horse in the race--the question is whether he will continue to improve in this two-turn affair, or revert to his Lane's End Futurity form when he got the lead only to lose it around two turns at Keeneland last fall. Trainer Todd Pletcher has an amazing 30% win rate at this meet.

And winding up our top four is the one we fear the most--TAPIT. This is only the Laurel Futurity winner's third career start, but he has trainer Michael Dickinson's unorthodox training under his belt, including workouts that are part-uphill, accounting for his slow times. The trainer's ability to win off long layoffs has us on edge.

Downey's Picks:


There are less-familiar faces in Saturday's El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate, but Ten Most Wanted wasn't very well-known when he ran third in this race last year.

We are taking Bobby Frankel's SEATTLE BORDERS here. Frankel's Master David is out of the Florida Derby, but maybe Frankel does have his Kentucky Derby horse--just not the one we thought. After an undistinguished campaign at age two, this colt was bought by Edmund Gann--owner of Peace Rules and Medaglia d'Oro--after breaking his maiden in a one mile turf race at Delaware Park last October. After a four month layoff, he won the 6 1/2 furlong, Grade III Baldwin Stakes on the downhill turf course at Santa Anita. What's not to like? The fact that he has never run well on dirt, that's what. But we believe that Frankel believes, and that's good enough for us.

Our second choice is SKIPASLEW. He has good early foot and should be able to lay off Lipan. The fact that he won the Gold Rush and the Grade III Golden Gate Derby at this track doesn't hurt his chances, either. Trainer Doug O'Neill is 24% at this meet.

The filly WILDWOOD FLOWER is our show pick for the simple reason that she ran third to the talented AP Adventure in the Grade III Santa Ysabl at Santa Anita in her last race. She has a win in one start at Golden Gate and is trained by Golden Gate veteran Jerry Hollendorfer.

We think CAPITANO is good enough to get up for fourth, but we've been disappointed in his performance this year. He ran a pretty good time in the Grade II Norfolk even though he was beaten 15 lengths by Ruler's Court--now off the Derby trail--but he hasn't improved very much at age three, and he hasn't been tested by top company yet this year either. Hey, if he does win, we'll be happy for him.

Downey's Picks