Hidden Scroll will be favored to make amends in Saturday’s $1 million Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park after coming up short in his first stakes attempt. The Bill Mott trainee will receive a rider switch to Javier Castellano for his third career start.
The 1 1/8-mile Florida Derby serves as one of seven major qualifiers in the Road to the Kentucky Derby series, awarding a combined 170 points to the first four finishers (100-40-20-10 scale), and Hidden Scroll probably needs a top two finish to secure enough points for a Kentucky Derby berth.
Installed as the 5-2 morning line favorite among 11 runners, Hidden Scroll is a son of 2007 Kentucky Derby runner-up Hard Spun. The Juddmonte Farms homebred stamped himself one to watch recording a scintillating 14-length maiden romp in his January 26 debut, registering a 102 BRIS Speed rating for the wire-to-wire performance, but Hidden Scroll experienced a rough start when being side-swiped by a rival in the Fountain of Youth (G2) five weeks later. He took off for the lead after being bumped, dueling through blistering early fractions with a hopeless longshot who retreated to last, and the hot pace had taken its toll by the far turn.
Hidden Scroll never quit trying while weakening to fourth, courageously finishing only three lengths behind the winner despite being on fumes, and Mott came away disappointed his charge didn’t settle. He believes Hidden Scroll can show tractability but isn’t committed to changing tactics if the pace comes up softer than the Fountain of Youth.
“I think this horse is fine behind horses; he’s fine on the lead if the pace is such that he needs to be on the lead,” the Hall of Fame trainer said. “That’s the rider’s decision. They have to make that choice when they leave the starting gate.”
Fountain of Youth winner Code of Honor comes next on the morning line at 3-1. The chestnut colt is conditioned by 2013 Kentucky Derby winner Shug McGaughey and will have two-time Kentucky Derby victor John Velazquez, who has a record five wins in the Florida Derby, will be in the saddle.
Bourbon War has been tabbed as the 7-2 third choice following a fast-finishing second in the Fountain of Youth. Irad Ortiz Jr. rides for Mark Hennig. Maximum Security, a former claimer who will be tested for class in his stakes debut, is the only other runner listed below double digits at 9-2. The Jason Servis-trained colt has won his three career starts by a combined 34 ¼ lengths at Gulfstream and could be a pace player with Luis Saez.
Harvey Wallbanger upset the February 2 Holy Bull (G2) at 29-1 and is seeking his third straight win. Brian Hernandez Jr. has the call for Kenny McPeek. Grade 3 turf winner Current will switch back to the main track for Todd Pletcher, who leads all trainers with five Florida Derby wins. Pletcher has won the last two runnings and four of the last five. Manny Franco picks up the assignment on the late-running Current.
Holy Bull runner-up Everfast will try to rebound from an eighth in the Fountain of Youth. Mucho Macho Man third-placer Garter and Tie much show more following a sixth in the Holy Bull. Completing the field are longshots Bodexpress, Hard Belle and Union’s Destiny.