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Florida Derby boasts top-notch field

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. (AP) - For Itsmyluckyday and Shanghai Bobby, the Florida Derby is almost like the Kentucky Derby semifinals.

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With a strong finish, either would likely get into the Run for the Roses. With a lackluster showing, the odds of either getting to the start of the Triple Crown season would take a major hit.

They are the morning-line favorites for Saturday's $1 million Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park, with Itsmyluckyday the 2-1 favorite, just ahead of Shanghai Bobby (5-2) and Fountain of Youth winner Orb (3-1). Of the 10 horses entered for the Florida Derby, only Orb has enough points so far to be assured of a Kentucky Derby spot.

``I've got a horse that could not be feeling any better,'' said Eddie Plesa Jr., who trains Itsmyluckyday. ``He's just tearing down the barn. He's a very, very happy horse. He's been away from the races for a little while and hasn't missed a day of training, hasn't missed a work.''

Itsmyluckyday will probably need to finish at least second in the Florida Derby - which awards 100 points for a win, 40 points for second, 20 for third and 10 for fourth under Churchill Downs' new system - to qualify for the Derby on May 4.

Shanghai Bobby, trained by Todd Pletcher and who went undefeated as a 2-year-old with a win in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, probably needs to finish at least third to clinch a spot.

Itsmyluckyday and Shanghai Bobby finished first and second, respectively, in the Holy Bull Stakes at 1 1/16 miles. The Florida Derby distance is 1 1/8 miles, one-eighth shorter than the Kentucky Derby distance.

``There's not much we can do at this point,'' said Jack Wolf, who owns a portion of Shanghai Bobby. ``The trainer's got the horse ready and the horse is going to do his own speaking. It's exciting for me and our partners to compete at these levels, so hopefully he shows up and has a good race.''

Orb busted into the Kentucky Derby picture with a win in the Fountain of Youth. That being said, Orb's trainer Shug McGaughey insists he doesn't plan on backing into a spot in the race.

McGaughey said Orb would have to earn it in the Florida Derby first.

``He doesn't necessarily have to win Saturday to go to the Derby, but he has to run the right kind of race,'' McGaughey said. ``If he doesn't, we won't go. I want the horse to take me there.''

Copyright 2017 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.
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