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Clancy's Call: The Florida Derby And Spiral Stakes

Bob Clancy handicaps the Florida Derby and Spiral Stakes

Bob Clancy's selections for Saturday's Grade 1 Florida Derby and Grade 3 Spiral Stakes:

Florida Derby

Site: Gulfstream Park, Hallandale Beach; Post time: 6:45 p.m.; TV: NBC Sports Network; Distance: 1 1/8 miles; Purse: $1 million; Forecast: Thunderstorm possible, high near 85; Kentucky Derby points to winner: 100

NYQUIST (No. 4, 6-5) might have the tactical edge in a race in which only two of the 10 horses have a realistic chance to win. The undefeated son of Uncle Mo clinched the 2-year-old title with a stirring victory in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Keeneland, proving he can win from several lengths off the pace. In his only start at 3, he won the 7-furlong San Vicente at Santa Anita on Feb. 15 after a 3 1/2-month layoff. One race in more than five months is cause for concern, but the steady string of workouts indicates he has maintained his form. No other horse in the field has a Grade 1 win, and he has three. Mario Gutierrez rides for trainer Doug O'Neill and owner J. Paul Reddam, the trio that won the 2012 Kentucky Derby and Preakness with I'll Have Another. Nyquist has a shot to win a $1 million bonus offered to a Florida Derby winner purchased at the 2015 Fasig-Tipton Florida sales. Look for this very game colt to be prominent throughout, taking the lead on the far turn and holding on for a lucrative victory.

MOHAYMEN (No. 9, 1-1) is 5-for-5, including two Grade 2 victories at this track and an earlier win at the distance (Remsen at Aqueduct). He will be favored for the sixth time, and deservedly so. Even his workouts at Palm Meadows are impressive. Junior Alvarado has been riding very well lately and trainer Kiaran McLaughlin is among the best in the business. Son of Tapit could very well come rumbling down the center of the track for a victory that would send him to Louisville as the clear Derby favorite. But he has yet to face a horse the caliber of Nyquist. A showdown of this magnitude has rarely been seen at this stage of the season.

FELLOWSHIP (No. 2, 15-1) has been third in Gulfstream's two races won by Mohaymen. Logical choice to complete a short trifecta with Jose Lezcano riding for Stanley Gold.

Spiral Stakes

Site: Turfway Park, Florence, Ky.; Post time: 5:40 p.m.; Distance: 1 1/8 miles (Polytrack); Purse: $500,000; Forecast: Partly sunny, windy, high near 50; Derby points to winner: 50

DON'T BE SO SALTY (No. 4, 8-1) showed an affinity for synthetic surfaces as a 2-year-old before spending the winter in Florida, where he ran very well in one of his two starts on the Gulfstream grass. Showed his talent right away by winning his debut last summer on the Saratoga lawn. Gelded son of Tiz Wonderful looked sharp in his most recent workout and could be primed for a top effort in his third start off a layoff. Cornelio Velasquez rides for trainer Gary Contessa.

AIROFORCE (No. 10, 3-1) appears to have recovered from a dismal performance in the Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds. Grade 2 winner might be closing best of all in a full field of 12. Turfway rider Albin Jimenez replaces Julien Leparoux for Mark Casse.

KASSEOPIA (No. 8, 6-1) ran second and third in two graded stakes since arriving from Europe. Trainer Graham Motion has three Spiral victories, most notably with 2011 Derby winner Animal Kingdom. Alan Garcia rides.

Contact Bob Clancy at bclancy929@gmail.com.

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