Weekend Lineup Presented By Sky Racing World: Champion Forte Leads Florida Derby, Reincarnate Favored In Arkansas Prep - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Weekend Lineup Presented By Sky Racing World: Champion Forte Leads Florida Derby, Reincarnate Favored In Arkansas Prep

Forte works at Palm Meadows

Eclipse Award winner Forte will try to cement his status as the Kentucky Derby favorite as he faces eleven rivals in Saturday's $1 million Florida Derby (G1), while former Bob Baffert trainee Reincarnate has been installed as the slight morning-line favorite in the $1.25 million Arkansas Derby (G1).

The Grade 1 contests each offer points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby to the top five finishers on a scale of 100-40-30-20-10; Saturday's cards at Gulfstream Park and Oaklawn Park will also offer each track's final race on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks.

The Florida Derby will headline Gulfstream's 14-race program with 10 stakes, including five graded races, worth $2.375 million in purses. The 14-race Florida Derby program with a first-race post time of 11:30 a.m. (ET) will offer a $1-million guaranteed Late Pick 5 pool and a $750,000 guaranteed Late Pick 4 pool.

Other significant stakes action around the country on Saturday includes the Excelsior Stakes at Aqueduct; the Carolina Cup steeplechase races in Aiken; the G3 Oaklawn Mile and listed Hot Springs Stakes on the Arkansas Derby undercard; and the G2 Royal Heroine Stakes at Santa Anita.

Sunday's major stakes action includes Aqueduct's Top Flight Stakes, Oaklawn's Temperance Hill Stakes, and the G3 American Stakes at Santa Anita.

Meanwhile, south of the equator, Australian racing's equivalent of the Breeders' Cup commences this Friday night, as Day 1 of “The Championships at Randwick” showcases global Group 1 talent across a multitude of conditions and distances. The two-day elite event, which concludes next Friday night, features AU$20 million in purses. The TJ Smith Stakes (Race 7) exemplifies Australia's status as the world's premier source of turf sprinters. Nature Strip (7-2), who crushed his rivals at Royal Ascot last summer, appears to be finally succumbing to the reality of aging. Yet, after two subpar efforts this campaign, trainer Chris Waller is bullish that the 8-year-old has rebounded and is fully capable of a record fourth victory in this race.


5:15 p.m. – Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks

Dorth Vader won't be able to sneak up on anyone when she runs in next Saturday's $250,000 Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2), certainly not after pulling off a startling 46-1 upset victory in the March 4 Davona Dale (G2) at Gulfstream Park. Not only did she win the seven-furlong stakes for 3-year-old fillies, the daughter of Girven also thoroughly dominated her rivals by 4¾ lengths, providing veteran Florida trainer Michael Yates with the first graded-stakes success of his career in the process.

Atomically, who was 11 lengths clear off the Yates trainee in the FSS final, is scheduled to seek a return to winning form in the Gulfstream Park Oaks. Purchased privately following her FSS win and transferred to Todd Pletcher's barn, Atomically finished seventh in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) at Keeneland in her next start. She came back to finish third in the Feb. 4 Forward Gal (G2) at Gulfstream.

Pletcher will also saddle Miracle, a New York-bred daughter of Mendelsohn. Miracle's first four starts came against state-breds, winning at first asking before placing in three straight one-turn New York-bred stakes. She stepped into graded-stakes company in her 2023 debut Feb. 18 at Fair Grounds, where she set the pace in the 1 1/16-mile Rachel Alexandra (G2) before finishing second, less than a length behind victorious Pretty Mischievous.

Affirmative Lady will enter the Gulfstream Oaks off a maiden victory, but the Graham Motion trainee also brings a solid stakes resume into the race. The daughter of Arrogate finished third and fourth in a pair of one-turn maiden races to start her career before finishing second in the 1 1/16-mile Demoiselle (G2) at Aqueduct Dec. 3, beaten by just a neck. She came back to finish third in the 1 1/8-mile Busanda Jan. 14 at Aqueduct before graduating at Gulfstream Park in a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight race by 2 ¼ lengths Feb. 26.

Gulfstream Oaks Entries

6:40 p.m. – Grade 1 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park

Trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, Forte established himself as a clear early favorite for the May 6 Kentucky Derby (G1) when he made an auspicious 2023 debut in the March 4 Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park. The son of Violence, who had won three consecutive Grade 1 races to finish his 2022 championship season, raced between horses while rating off the early pace before advancing along the backstretch, swinging four-wide into the stretch and drawing away to a 4½-length victory under Irad Ortiz Jr. The 2022 juvenile champion, who drew Post 11, has been installed as the 4-5 morning-line favorite in a field of a dozen 3-year-olds entered in the 1 1/8-mile Florida Derby.

Mage, who showed a lot of grit while finishing fourth in the Fountain of Youth in only his second career start, is slated to return in the Florida Derby. The Gustavo Delgado-trained son off Good Magic, who experienced gate trouble, bumping and a wide trip in that race, had previously debuted with a 3 ¾-length victory Jan. 28 at Gulfstream.

Cyclone Mischief, who rebounded from a disappointing effort in the Feb. 4 Holy Bull (G3) with a third-place finish in the Fountain of Youth, is scheduled to return in the Florida Derby. The Dale Romans-trained son of Into Mischief set the pace into the stretch before being overtaken by Forte and Holy Bull winner Rocket Can, who finished second, 1 ¼ lengths ahead of him.

Fort Bragg is scheduled to make his first start outside Southern California in the Florida Derby. Formerly trained by Bob Baffert and now conditioned by Tim Yakteen, the son of Tapit is coming off a fifth-place finish in the March 4 San Felipe (G2) at Santa Anita in his 3-year-old debut. Fort Bragg, who was entered to run in Sunday's Sunland Derby (G3), finished third in the Los Alamitos Futurity in his final 2022 start.

Dubyuhnell will seek to rebound from a disappointing performance in the Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs in his 3-year-old debut. The son of Good Magic, who finished sixth as the 2-1 favorite at Tampa, had concluded his 2-year-old campaign with a victory in the 1 1/8-mile Remsen (G2) over a sloppy Aqueduct main track. The Danny Gargan trainee, who broke his maiden in the Aqueduct slop in his previous start, will be ridden by Jose Ortiz

Trainer Saffie Joseph Jr., who saddled White Abarrio for a victory in last year's Florida Derby, is represented in this year's field by four longshots –  West Coast Cowboy, Mr. Ripple, Nautical Star, and Mr. Peeks.

Florida Derby Entries

7:24 p.m. – Grade 1 Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park

Southern California-based Reincarnate is the 5-2 program favorite for the $1.25 million Arkansas Derby (G1) for 3-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles Saturday at Oaklawn. Reincarnate endured an eventful trip in the Rebel, his first start for trainer Tim Yakteen, and was beaten 2 ½ lengths by Confidence Game after losing valuable position when shuffled back shortly after the start and having to check approaching the eighth pole under Velazquez.

Late-running Red Route One opened his 3-year-old campaign with a runner-up finish behind unbeaten Arabian Knight in the $750,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) at 1 1/16 miles Jan. 28 before finishing second in the Rebel for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen. Red Route One adds blinkers after falling far behind early in the Southwest and Rebel.

Asmussen will also start Harlocap, who exits a sixth in the $400,000 Risen Star Stakes (G2) at 1 1/8 miles Feb. 18 at Fair Grounds. Harlocap, who previously had been with Baffert on the West Coast, passed the Louisiana Derby in favor of the Arkansas Derby.

Two-time Eclipse Award winning trainer Brad Cox won the 2022 Arkansas Derby with Cyberknife and is represented by Angel of Empire, who returns to Oaklawn after winning the Risen Star in his last start.

Rocket Can won the $250,000 Holy Bull Stakes (G3) Feb. 4 and finished second behind champion Forte in the $400,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) March 4. Both 1 1/16-mile races were at Gulfstream Park.

The speedy Two Eagles Rivers exits a sharp entry-level allowance victory at 1 mile Feb. 19 at Oaklawn for 2015 Oaklawn training champion Chris Hartman. The runner-up in that Feb. 19 race, Disarm, returned to finish second in the Louisiana Derby.

Arkansas Derby Entries

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