Florida Derby: Fierceness Looks for Redemption; Odds, Picks

Florida Derby: Fierceness Looks for Redemption; Odds, Picks

Which Fierceness will show up for the $1 million Florida Derby (G1) on March 30 at Gulfstream Park?

Will it be the Fierceness who finished third in the Holy Bull (G3) to surprising Hades on Feb. 3, or the Fierceness who dominated the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) by 6 ¼ lengths on Nov. 3?

The 2-year-old champion trained by Todd Pletcher takes on 10 rivals, including Hades, in the 73rd running of the Florida Derby, a race that has produced 25 Kentucky Derby (G1) winners – more than any other prep race.

Florida Derby Preview: Fierceness Faces Tricky Gulfstream Two-Turn Challenge

Fierceness was made the 8-5 morning-line favorite Saturday (March 23) and drew post 10. Pletcher, seeking a record-extending eighth Florida Derby win, expects a top effort from his 2-year-old champ in the 1 1/8-mile race that offers Derby qualifying points of 100-50-25-15-10 to the top five finishers.

“Normally I’d be afraid of the outside post, but Forte won from the 11 last year, so you can overcome that,” Pletcher said. “Everybody knows Gulfstream two-turn races are very tricky and I think that’s why the start is so important, getting away cleanly.

“I think what happens in a lot of these two-turn races is the jockeys are so conscious of having to get to the first turn in good position that it can get a little rough leaving the gate sometimes.”

Derby Bound: Pletcher’s Fierceness and Hades in Focus

Pletcher also sends out Bail Us Out, a recent maiden special weight winner. John Velazquez rides Fierceness; Irad Ortiz, Jr., has the call aboard Bail Us Out.

Hades is back again as the 7-2 choice, while Shug McGaughey-trained Conquest Warrior, making his stakes debut, is the 3-1 second choice.

Fierceness, with 36 qualifying points, likely needs to show Pletcher he’s a real Derby threat with a strong effort, while unbeaten Hades, with 20 points, likely needs a top 3 finish to move on to the May 4 Derby.

Conquest Warrior needs to finish first or second to move into the Kentucky Derby picture. He comes into the race off back-to-back wins in a maiden special weight race (Jan. 13) and an allowance optional claimer (March 1).

Other top contenders include the second- and third-place finishers in the Fountain of Youth (G2), Le Dom Bro (15-1) and Frankie’s Empire (12-1).

The picks: 1 Fierceness 2 Conquest Warrior 3 Hades

The field for the $1 million Florida Derby (G1), from the rail out, with jockey, trainer, odds:

1 Frankie’s Empire (Miguel Vasquez, Michael Yates), 12-1

2 Hades (Paco Lopez, Joe Orseno), 7-2

3 Bail Us Out (Irad Ortiz, Jr., Todd Pletcher), 15-1

4 Grand Mo the First (Emisael Jaramillo, Victor Barboza, Jr.), 15-1

5 Real Macho (Javier Castellano, Rohan Crichton), 20-1

6 Le Dom Bro (Edwin Gonzalez, Eniel Cordero), 15-1

7 Catalytic (Julien Leparoux, Saffie Joseph, Jr.), 20-1

8 Seminole Chief (Joel Rosario, Jack Sisterson), 30-1

9 Conquest Warrior (Jose Ortiz, Shug McGaughey), 3-1

10 Fierceness (John Velazquez, Todd Pletcher), 8-5

11 Iris’s Dream (Jorge Ruiz, Cheryl Winebaugh), 30-1

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