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Florida Derby Generating A Ton Of Excitement

Florida Derby Generating A Ton Of Excitement

31.03.2016, by Jim
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There’s something of a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ in horse racing as it relates to the Kentucky Derby prep season. The general idea is that top contenders make a concerted effort to avoid going head to head with each other in any of the Kentucky Derby prep races. That was definitely the case under the old qualification format which used graded stakes earnings to determine eligibility for the Kentucky Derby. There was plenty of purse money to be had and horsemen had no vested interest in facing tougher competition than absolutely necessary.

The transition to the new ‘qualification points’ format a couple years back was supposed to produce higher quality fields with fewer ‘phony’ entrants. The jury is still out on whether or not this goal has been achieved though there have been full fields every year under the new format and it’s hard to recall any horses that ‘deserved’ to be in the race that didn’t make it (aside from injury and other issues). And it’s not like a marginal horse still can’t get it under the right set of circumstances–all you need to know about that is that the UAE Derby awards 100 points to the winner which means that the lightly raced against forgettable competition horse Lani will be in the Kentucky Derby field.

The new format hasn’t really changed the ‘gentleman’s agreement’ that has prevented top contenders from tangling before the first Saturday in May. Sure, there’s been a handful of exceptions over the years but they’re few and far between. The 2016 Florida Derby will be different–one media wag called it a ‘two horse race with a ten horse field’. That’s because two highly touted Kentucky Derby prospects–and arguably the top two prospects–will go head to head. Doug O’Neill’s Nyquist won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last year but is a 6-5 second choice. The race favorite is Kieran McLaughlin’s Mohaymen–he’s been adopted as the ‘darling’ of the ‘serious’ racing media for reasons that aren’t readily apparent. Mohaymen is an even money favorite in the Florida Derby but to the objective eye there’s just not much qualitative separation between him and Nyquist.

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