2020 Florida Derby Undercard Picks: Best Bets & Pick 6 Plays for 5 Saturday Races at Gulfstream Park

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  • Race 14 (aka the Florida Derby) is the main event at Gulfstream Park on Saturday, but there's plenty of value on the board in the undercard races.
  • Mike Conti analyzes his picks for Race 9, Race 10, Race 11, Race 12 and Race 13 at Gulfstream Park.
  • He's betting a 20-1 longshot in Race 13 that's worth a look, in addition to a Pick 6 that ends with the Florida Derby.

For the undercard, I’m going to focus on Races 9 through 13 because the Pick 6 starts in Race 9 and it’s a mandatory payout. Normally, Gulfstream has the mandatory payout on the Sunday after the Florida Derby, but because of the circumstances, they moved it up to Florida Derby Day.

This also reinforces the idea that tomorrow will be the last day of racing at Gulfstream for the foreseeable future. With a carryover of over $1.6M, let’s put together a ticket that gets us a piece of the pie.


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Race 9: Sand Springs Stakes

Time: 3:34 p.m. ET

The race will be run at a mile over the turf course with the rail set at 60 feet.

My top pick for this race is the fittingly-named No. 12 Valedictorian (8-1). She’s trained by Kelly Breen and will have Paco Lopez in the irons. Paco had a record seven wins on last Saturday’s card at Gulfstream.

Valedictorian has 12 starts over the Gulfstream turf course with four wins, two seconds and a pair of thirds. Additionally, she has eight starts at the distance with three wins, one second and a third-place finish. One of her wins came in this exact race last year.

In her most recent start, the G3 Honey Fox, Valedictorian finished sixth to No. 7 Getmotherarose (6-1) by 5.5 lengths. That was Valedictorian’s first start after a five-month layoff and she showed some early speed, but faded late.

Breen sends out winners 22% of the time in their second start off the layoff and has a 23% win percentage in non-graded stakes races. Her early running style, combined with Breen’s good numbers in this spot earns Newspaperofrecord my top spot in this race.

Getmetotherarose is sired by Get Stormy and has five wins, two seconds and a pair of thirds from 14 career turf starts. As previously mentioned, she won her most recent start in the G3 Honey Fox right here at Gulfstream over the same distance.

Getmotherarose was able to overcome a troubled start to win by 1.5 lengths over Silver Kitten, who won easily on this track on Friday. An interesting stat is that Getmothertherose has only won in back-to-back starts once in her career and that dates back to June 2019, when she broke her maiden and then won next out in an allowance race. Since that time, she has won every other start, which would suggest that this isn’t going to be her race. That said, I am having too hard of a time throwing her out, so I’m going to include her.

With there being so much pace in this race, I have to include No. 2 Zofelle (9-2). She is the deep closer in the field, so she will need as much pace as she can get to run into. Since shipping over to the US in October of 2019, she has three wins from four career starts. Her only loss came in her most recent start where she finished fifth by 2.5 lengths in a non-graded stakes event at Fair Grounds.

Zofelle is trained by Brendan Walsh, who has won 27% of his races during the current meet. While I’m a fan of jockey Joel Rosario, who has the mount here, I don’t like the fact that Florent Geroux picks up another mount rather than staying with Zofelle, who he has rode the last three times. Regardless of the jockey change, with the amount of pace in this race, I need to include a closer in the ticket and she’s the most likely winner if the pace is hot.


Race 10: G3 Orchid

Time: 4:17 p.m. ET

The G3 Orchid is the first graded stakes race of the day and will be run over the turf course at 1 3/8 miles. While there are 12 runners, I’ve narrowed it down to three horses to consider for the Pick 6.

No. 6 Mean Mary (3-1) is the favorite and my top choice. She has four career turf starts with three wins and a second-place finish. Mean Mary is 2-for-2 over the Gulfstream Turf.

Trained by Graham Motion, Mean Mary will have Luiz Saez aboard. That’s good news as Saez has guided her to wins in her last two starts. She will compete for the pace with No. 12 Elizabeth Way (9-2), but if Mean Mary gets the lead and is able to control it, she should win as she’s continually improved her speed figures in each of her starts.

While she’s coming off a layoff, she won by five lengths in her most recent start against graded stakes company and in her win two back, beat No. 7 Cap de Creus (10-1) and No. 1 Beale Street (15-1). An argument could be made to single Mean Mary if you’re looking to cut down the price of your Pick 6 ticket.

Elizabeth Way is a perfect 2-for-2 since coming over to the US in January. She has shown versatility, winning from off the pace and in front-running style, but was made to run on the turf. Bred in Ireland, sired by the great Frankel out of a stakes winning Giant’s Causeway dam, Elizabeth Way has posted two workouts since her last start, both of them being bullet works. She’s one to include in the Pick 6.

Finally, we will look at No. 5 Gentle Ruler (7-2). She hasn’t been in the starting gate since finishing out her 2019 campaign with a record of six wins from seven starts and has been well-bet in every race of her career.

Trained by Ian Wilkes and ridden by his son-in-law, Chris Landeros, Gentle Ruler is coming off a five-month layoff. She has posted seven works since the beginning of February with a bullet workout over 5 furlongs in a blazing 57.45 seconds.

Her speed figures suggest that she’s going to need to take a step up in order to be competitive here and while there may be a family connection between trainer and jock, they haven’t teamed up for a win in their last 26 races together. That said, because of the distance and her late kick, I’m going to include her.


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Race 11: G2 Gulfstream Park Oaks

Time: 4:49 p.m. ET

Similar to how the Florida Derby will guarantee the winner a spot in the starting gate of the Kentucky Derby, the G2 Gulfstream Park Oaks will guarantee a spot in the Kentucky Oaks.

This is a rematch for No. 5 Spice Is Nice (3-1) and No 9. Tonalist Shape (5/2) after their battle in the G2 Davona Dale. Spice Is Nice is trained by Todd Pletcher and was supposed to have Javier Castellano aboard, but with him being out, will most likely have Luis Saez up. She finished a hard fought second, by 1 1/4 lengths, in the Davona Dale. It was only her second start, coming after an impressive maiden victory by 12 lengths.

Spice Is Nice is Triple Crown nominated and with the Kentucky Derby being pushed back, she will have additional opportunities to try and qualify if she so pleases, but first she will need to take care of business here. Sired by Curlin, Spice is Nice was purchased for $1.05M at the Keeneland 2018 sale. With the added experience of the Davona Dale under her belt, Spice Is Nice is going to be my top pick.

No. 9 Tonalist Shape comes into the Oaks a perfect 5-for-5. Trained by Saffie Joseph Jr.and ridden by Tyler Gaffalione, she already has two graded stakes victories to her name. Other than the Davona Dale, she also won the G3 Forward Gal right here at Gulfstream and also put up the highest speed figure of any horse in the race, but it came back in November in a non-graded stakes race.

Saffie Joseph Jr. has had an incredible meet and Gaffalione has been his go-to jock. If there’s a knock against Tonalist Shape, it’s that she’s never stretched out past a mile, and while an extra 1/16th isn’t a lot of ground to add, it could change her approach.

Next we will take a look at the Godolphin homebred, No. 4 Lake Avenue (9-2). The Bill Mott trainee comes in with two wins and a second from four career starts. After breaking her maiden in her second career start, she stepped up to run in the G2 Demoiselle at Aqueduct where she drew clear by four lengths in the end.

Lake Avenue then had a three-month layoff, coming back earlier this month in a non-graded stakes event at Aqueduct where she ran a disappointing fourth. Bill Mott always finds a way to have his horses ready for the big races and this is no exception. While I’m sure it wasn’t always the plan to run her here, she stands a big chance at decent odds.

Finally, we have the longshot that I’m including, No. 7 Lucrezia (8-1). She is also a homebred by Edward Seltzer and Beverly Anderson. She is the daughter of Into Mischief out of a stakes-winning Rahy dam, Lucrezia has three wins and a second from five career starts. Two of her starts, including one win, came over the turf course, leaving her three starts with two wins and a second over the main track. This will be her first start at Gulfstream, but her early-running style should fit nicely here. Since her most recent start, a win in a non-graded stakes event at Tampa Bay Downs, she has posted four workouts, the two most recent being bullets.

Although she’s stepping up in class, her running style, paired with her speed figures and recent works, give her a real shot here.


Race 12: G2 Kitten’s Joy Pan American

Time: 5:26 p.m. ET

The G2 Kitten’s Joy Pan American will be run at a distance of 1.5 miles over the turf course, with the rail set at 60 feet.

We have to start with the heaviest morning line favorite of the day, No. 9 Zulu Alpha (3-5). Trained by Mike Maker with Tyler Gaffalione aboard, Zulu Alpha has four wins from five starts over the Gulfstream turf course. He’s coming in on a two-race win streak, both of which came against graded stakes company.

Although I’m including him in my ticket, at 3/5 I’m going to hope that we can beat him with one of our other selections as many will single him in this spot because there’s not much against Zulu Alpha.

One of the other two horses that I’m hoping can beat Zulu Alpha is No. 1 Channel Cat (9-2). A Calumet Farm homebred, sired by English Channel, Channel Cat is out of a Kitten’s Joy dam. In his seven starts at Gulfstream, he has two wins, a second and a pair of thirds. While he’s run in some of the classiest races and against top competition, Channel Cat hasn’t won a race since the G2 Bowling Green at Saratoga on July 27.

He has the highest speed figure in today’s race. That combined with his versatile running style are the reasons why he has a big chance to score the upset over Zulu Alpha.

The last horse we will take a look at is No. 10 Focus Group (8-1). After being in Chad Brown barn for his entire career, Focus Group was moved to the Christophe Clement barn after his most recent start, back in October. He is 1-for-1 at Gulfstream, but hasn’t seen the winner’s circle in about a year. Ironically enough, that win came in this very race last year.

In his five starts since then he has struggled, only hitting the board once, but with the layoff, the barn change and getting red hot Luis Saez in the irons, he’s one that I’m going to include at a price.


Race 13: G3 Appleton

Time: 6 p.m. ET

The G3 Appleton is another deep field of 12 that will be run over the turf course at the distance of 1 mile. We have my longshot play of the day in here.

Let’s first look at the favorite, No. 10 Sombeyay (7-2). Trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by Luis Saez, the son of Into Mischief tried the turf for the first time in July at Saratoga. That was the only time in four starts that he hasn’t hit the board on the grass.

Since then, he’s rattled off two second-place finishes, losing by a combined one length, and one win. That most recent start was right here at Gulfstream going the same distance in the G3 Canadian Turf. Saez is very familiar with Sombeyay, riding him in three of his four turf starts, but interestingly enough, not to his lone turf win. With his early running style and having Saez, one of the best jockeys from the front end, he stands a big chance in here.

Another Todd Pletcher trainee is the No. 7 Social Paranoia (10-1), who has eight starts over the turf course, tallying two wins, two seconds and three thirds. He was able to get up in the final strides in his most recent start, but that was back in September at Kentucky Downs. The only other time in his career when he’s come back off the layoff, he won in convincing fashion by eight lengths, albeit his maiden victory.

The amount of time he was away from the track though, was the same amount of time as this layoff, so we know he can fire first time back. His competitive nature always allows him to be in the mix and with his speed figures he looks to have a real shot in here at a great price.

I’ll also include No. 3 March to the Arch (8-1). Trained by Mark Casse, March to the Arch is a homebred for Live Oak Plantation with five wins, one second and a pair of thirds from 17 career turf starts. Additionally, he has two wins from four starts over the Gulfstream turf course.

In his most recent start, March to the Arch just missed as the 5/2 favorite, finishing third by a neck against graded stakes company at Tampa Bay Downs. He’s going to stalk the pace and if Tyler Gaffalione can work out the right trip, March to the Arch stands a big chance and is a horse that I just couldn’t overlook.

Finally, we have my longshot play of the day, No. 8 Dr. Edgar (20-1). Similar to Focus Group, the last time Dr. Edgar made a trip to the winner’s circle was in this exact race last year. He’s only hit the board twice since then.

The Barclay Tagg trainee gets Paco Lopez in the irons today. I think that’s a big plus for Dr. Edgar as Paco has a way of getting horses to relax and that’s exactly what Dr. Edgar needs to compete in this race as his fastest speed figure is more than enough to win this race.

His early speed gives him a real chance, the biggest question will be if Paco can get him to settle so that he has enough coming for home. If that happens, watch out as we could see a nice $40 winner.

Florida Derby Pick 6

As I said above, today’s mandatory pick 6 will feature a huge payout. My sample ticket below would cost $172.80 so the best course of action may be to find a group of buddies to split the ticket and go for a big score or toss a few of the horses to get the horse down.

  • Race 9: 2,7,12
  • Race 10: 5,6,12
  • Race 11: 4,5,7,9
  • Race 12: 1,9,10
  • Race 13: 3,7,8,10
  • Race 14: 5,7,12

[LIMITED-TIME OFFER! Bet $300, Lose Nothing: Get your first horse racing bet 100% risk-free at TVG this weekend.]

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