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2020 Florida Derby Picks, Odds & Best Bets: The Horses That Can Upset Favorite Tiz the Law

2020 Florida Derby Picks, Odds & Best Bets: The Horses That Can Upset Favorite Tiz the Law article feature image

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  • Horse racing expert Mike Conti analyzes the entire field for the 2020 Florida Derby, including a look at the latest odds and two horses that are worth a bet to win outright.
  • Tiz the Law is the race favorite at 6-5 odds, but he's not worth betting at that price, according to Conti.
  • Instead, it makes sense to look a little farther down the board, and also target some exotics prior to the 2020 Florida Derby getting underway at 6:36 p.m. ET.

With Santa Anita being the latest track to shut down racing, the Florida Derby could be the last race we see at Gulfstream Park for a while. Both tracks are owned by the Stronach Group, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Gulfstream follow Santa Anita’s suit, especially after Gulfstream has received pressure from local government officials.

The G1 Florida Derby will close out Saturday’s 14-race card and will be run at a distance of 1 1/8 miles. It is scheduled to go off at 6:36 p.m. ET and will be televised on NBC Sports.

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This race, similar to the Louisiana Derby last weekend, will guarantee the winner a spot in the starting gates at the Kentucky Derby. But unlike the Louisiana Derby, the Florida Derby holds more significance as it has produced 24 Kentucky Derby winners. Because of the times, the purse has been lowered from $1M to $750K, but that hasn’t stopped it from attracting a full field of 12 horses.

Below are my power rankings and betting picks for the 2020 Florida Derby.

No. 7 Tiz the Law

Odds: 6/5

Tiz the Law is the heavy morning-line favorite for the Florida Derby. He is owned by Sackatoga Stable, who also owned 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Funny Cide, and is trained by Barclay Tagg, who also represents Sackatoga at the sales. Manny Franco will have the mount for the fourth consecutive time.

Tiz the Law has three wins and one third-place finish from 4 career starts. That third-place finish was only by three-quarters of a length in the G2 Jockey Club at Churchill Downs back in November. It’s important to note that this was the only race that Tiz the Law has run that wasn’t over a fast main track, the Churchill track was sloppy for the Jockey Club.

Tiz the Law likes to sit just off the pace and make his move as they come out of the turn. He put up his best speed figure (Brisnet), and the best speed figure in the field, last time out with a 108. In his last start at the G3 Holy Bull right here at Gulfstream, Tiz the Law put away rival Ete Indien in the stretch, although he looked a little green in doing so, diving down to the rail after being out in the 3-path, forcing Ete Indien to come off the fence.

Tiz the Law is the classiest horse in the race, but Barclay Tagg’s win percentage sits at just 6% in graded stakes races. You must include Tiz the Law in your exotics, both horizontally and vertically, but he’s not worth a win bet and I am trying to beat him in this one.

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No. 12 Ete Indien

Odds: 4-1

The Patrick Biancone trainee has had an interesting career up to this point. Ete Indien broke his maiden in his first race right here at Gulfstream but it was on the turf. From there his connections tried him in the G3 Bourbon Stakes at Keeneland back in October. He finished eighth.

Ete Indien was then given some time off and upon returning to the track has been spectacular. His first start off the layoff, his first race on dirt, came in an OC75K non-winners of 1, where he put away his competition with ease. After that, Ete Indien took a big step up in class by running in the G3 Holy Bull where he ran into Tiz the Law. He was clearly second-best finishing 4.5 lengths ahead of the third-place finisher.

Ete Indien followed that up by absolutely dominating the G2 Fountain of Youth beating Candy Tycoon by 8.5 lengths. In his last start, Ete Indien also had Florent Geroux aboard for the first time and the jockey seemed to make a big difference. Geroux is hot, coming off big wins in the Fair Grounds Oaks aboard Bonny South and in the Louisiana Derby aboard Wells Bayou. Interestingly, Wells Bayou was also a front-running type in a deep field, which should be an advantage for Geroux, although this is a much different field.

Ete Indien has been extremely consistent since switching surfaces. All three of his starts on the dirt have resulted in speed figures of over 100. He will need to continue his streak here if he has a chance against Tiz the Law, but with the additional experience and Geroux in the irons, Ete Indien is a serious contender. If we get anywhere near his morning-line odds (4-1), he’s worth a win bet.

Additionally, I will be using him in all exotics, both horizontally and vertically.

No. 5 Gouverneur Morris

Odds: 8-1

Gouverneur Morris was sired by Constitution, who also sired Tiz the Law, and purchased for $600K in the Fasig Tipton March 2019 sale. Owned by Team Valor and Winstar Farms, he is trained by Todd Pletcher and will have hall of famer John Velazquez in the irons.

Gouverneur Morris was the favorite in all three starts of his career and has two wins and one second-place finish. His second-place finish came at the Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland in October, losing to Maxfield by 5.5 lengths. Gouverneur Morris’ first start off the layoff was an OC75K non-winners of 1 at Tampa Bay Downs in mid-February. He was placed forwardly and had a steady bid throughout the stretch to win by a length and a quarter.

Gouverneur Morris’ speed figures have improved in each start and he will need to step them up again in this field. He’s had four workouts since his start in Tampa, with one of them (March 15th) being a bullet, finishing 5F in 1:00.67.

Gouverneur Morris’ improving speed figures and the combination of Pletcher and Johnny V make him a must-include for the Florida Derby.

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No. 3 Disc Jockey

Odds: 20-1

Disc Jockey is trained by the red hot Saffie Joseph Jr. and ridden by Tyler Gaffalione. Joseph Jr. and Gaffalione have won 24% of their races over the last 60 days (24 starts).

Disc Jockey has two wins and a second-place finish in three career starts, all over the fast main track at Gulfstream. He was claimed after his first start and maiden victory.

Coming off a three-month layoff, and making his first start for the new barn, Disco Jockey won an OC50k race going away by 5 3/4 lengths. In his most recent start, a non-graded stakes race, he was the heavy favorite and missed by one and a quarter lengths, but at a distance of 7F. He was caught wide, but that shouldn’t be an issue here since he’s starting from the 3-hole.

The additional distance should help this son of Bodemeister. Since switching to the Joseph Barn, Disc Jockey has put up big speed figure numbers, although they will need to get even better for him to contend against the horses above him on this list.

The extra distance in this race and the red-hot barn means I’ll be using Disc Jockey underneath in exotics for the Florida Derby.

No. 10 Candy Tycoon

Odds: 20-1

Trained by Todd Pletcher, the son of Twirling Candy is coming in off a big performance in the G2 Fountain of Youth Stakes. Javier Castellano was supposed to have the mount, but he decided to return to NY this past week, where he contracted COVID-19 and is now in quarantine. Candy Tycoon has one win, two seconds and a pair of third-place finishes from six career starts. While it took him five races to break his maiden, he has always been in contention and showed his versatility by coming from off the pace in the Fountain of Youth.

Even though he finished second to Ete Indien, he was carried wide for most of the race and made one big run at the end to edge out As Seen On TV by a neck. If you remove his lone turf start, his speed figures have continually improved throughout his career.

Since the Fountain of Youth, Candy Tycoon has had two works, one of which was a bullet going 4F in 48.12 seconds.

While he is going to be looked at as the ‘other’ Pletcher horse in the race, he’s a good price and one that I will use in some exotics.

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No. 9 Independence Hall

Odds: 9-2

Sired by Constitution, who also sired Gouverneur Morris and Tiz the Law, Independence Hall is coming off his first career loss. He is trained by Michael Trombetta and will have Joel Rosario, who rode him to his maiden victory, along for the ride.

After starting his career with a win at Parx, Independence Hall took a big step up in class and won the G3 Nashua at Aqueduct, where he put away the competition by 12 lengths. After a short layoff, he returned to the track to face non-graded stakes company at Aqueduct as the heavy 1-9 favorite. Once again, he was guided to an easy four-length victory. His next start saw him finish second by 2.5 lengths in the G3 Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs.

Gulfstream favors speed more than Tampa Bay, but the additional distance is what concerns me the most about Independence Hall on Saturday. The Sam F. Davis was the longest race of his career at a distance of 1 1/16 mile and with the added distance here, it may just be too much to overcome.

I’m going to bet against Independence Hall at these odds. I don’t think he can get the distance and Trombetta is only winning at a 6% clip during this meet at Gulfstream.

No. 1 As Seen On TV

Odds: 12-1

As Seen On TV has never missed the board in five career starts, with two wins two seconds and a third. His most recent start was the G2 Fountain of Youth where he finished third behind Ete Indien and Candy Tycoon. As Seen on TV is another horse who should factor into the pace, especially being down on the rail with Paco Lopez aboard.

While he has an impressive record, the son of Lookin At Lucky faced much weaker competition in his first three career starts. As Seen On TV broke his maiden in his debut at Monmouth but then finished a fading second against non-graded stakes company at the New Jersey shore track.

In his third career start, he came off a short layoff, as he returned to the track at Gulfstream Park West against state bred, non-graded stakes company where he won by 1.5 lengths.

His best speed figures would make him competitive in this race, but I can’t get past the weak competition, his spot on the rail and the other speed in the race, so I’m going to look elsewhere.

No. 2 Shivaree

Odds: 30-1

Shivaree is the most experienced horse in the field with nine career starts. He has three wins, two seconds and one third to his name. He’s a homebred for Jacks Or Better Farm and trained by Ralph Nicks and ridden by Emisael Jaramillo. Eight of his nine career starts came right here at Gulfstream with the lone exception coming at Gulfstream Park West.

It took Shivaree five tries to break his maiden in a state bred race, at his lone start at Gulfstream Park West. After that, he rattled off two wins on the bounce, both in non-graded stakes company. Since then he’s run second in the G3 Swale and second — by a neck — as an odds-on favorite in a non-graded stakes race.

Shivaree is going to want to be on or close to the lead and between his post position and having an aggressive rider like Jaramillo, he will be close to the early pace. That is most likely where the race ends for Shivaree though, as all but one of his starts have been at a sprint distance.

No. 13 Rogue Element

Odds: 50-1

Rogue Element, who gets into the race thanks to the scratch of Soros (who ran on Friday at Gulfstream), was purchased by Calumet Farm for $250K at the Keeneland September sale. Rogue Element is trained by Dale Romans and will have Miguel Vazquez in the irons. Sired by Honor Code and out of a Candy Ride dam, he is one of two maidens in the race.

In his most recent start, Rogue Element was beat by a neck at the wire after leading almost the entire race. This is obviously a huge step up in class, running against some of the top three-year-olds in the sport, so Rogue Element will need to do much better than his previous starts if he wants to have a chance.

Again, he’s another one whose only chance is to vie for the early lead, but with the outside-most post position, I doubt that he will be able to get there. When he doesn’t it’s all over for Rogue Element. I’m tossing him.

No. 11 Sassy But Smart

Odds: 50-1

Sassy But Smart is one of the longest prices on the board and deservedly so.

While he has one win, one second and a third from four career starts, he is not Triple Crown nominated and three of his four career races have been over the turf course. Additionally, it took him three tries to break his maiden against state bred company and he ran fourth by 1 3/4 lengths in the G3 Palm Beach.

Trained by Kendall Condie and ridden by Joe Bravo this will be the first start of his career that was intended to be run over the fast main track. His only other non-turf start came over the fast main track but only after it was taken off the turf.

Sassy But Smart just doesn’t fit here and is another one that I’m tossing out.

No. 8 My First Grammy

Odds: 50-1

Finally, we have the other maiden in the race — My First Grammy.

My First Grammy’s first start saw him run a dismal sixth in a non-graded stakes race at Gulfstream. He then dropped down to maiden company, finishing third by three lengths, outrunning his 52-1 odds. In his most recent start, My First Grammy, finished a distant second by 6 1/4 lengths.

He’s another one that is going to want to be on or close to the lead and frankly he’s just not fast enough to get there. His post position is also concerning as he can easily get swallowed up by those both to his inside and outside if he doesn’t get away from the gate cleanly.

My First Grammy is trained by Amador Sanchez who is only winning at a 9% clip at the current meet and has never saddled a graded stakes winner. He’s another one that I’m tossing out.

Florida Derby Betting Picks

  • Win Bets: 5,12
  • Exacta Box: 3,5,7,12
  • Trifecta: 3,5,7,12/3,5,7,12/3,5,7,9,10,12

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