Florida Derby: Forte Looms as an Overwhelming Favorite

Written by: Brian Zipse
Updated March 28, 2023
9 min read

Florida Derby Odds and Post Position

Check out our predictions and odds for the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park!










P Lopez

W Mott





S Leon

S Joseph Jr





M Vasquez

R Richards





L Saez

G Delgado





E Gonzalez

S Joseph Jr





L Reyes

S Joseph Jr





J Rios

A Sano





E Zayas

S Joseph Jr





J Castellano

D Romans





J Rosario

T Yakteen





I Ortiz Jr

T Pletcher





J Ortiz

D Gargan

*Odds provided by author Brian Zipse.

Florida Derby Predictions and Best Bets

Here are my plays ($60 in total)

$30 Exacta Part Wheel - Forte over Mage and Fort Bragg = $60

If you're playing only to win, go with my top pick Forte (3/5).    

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Florida Derby Gulfstream Predictions

The current favorite for the Kentucky Derby, Forte looms as an overwhelming favorite when he takes on eleven others in the $1,000,000 Florida Derby on Saturday at Gulfstream Park. 

Trained by Todd Pletcher, the son of Violence was an impressive winner of his seasonal debut when he romped home in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream four weeks ago. 

The champion 2-year-old of 2022 won three Grade 1 races last year topped by the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Keeneland and has won 5-of-6 overall.

Chief among his opposition in the 9-furlong Florida Derby will be the California shipper Fort Bragg, trained by Tim Yakteen.

Formerly trained by Bob Baffert, the son of Tapit has finished ahead of future graded stakes winners twice in his career. Since moving to the stakes company, he has finished third and fifth behind Practical Move in a pair of Grade 2 stakes.

Dubyuhnell also merits respect on Saturday as a winner of the Grade 2 Remsen Stakes two starts back. In his only start this year he finished well in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs, however.

As a Kentucky Derby trail race, the Grade 1 Florida Derby will offer qualifying points for the first Saturday in May on a scale of 100-40-30-20-10 to the first five finishers.

Florida Derby Predictions and Race Analysis


The champion returned to rave reviews when he rolled right by his competition in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth four weeks ago. Now a four-time graded stakes winner in only six career starts, the current Kentucky Derby favorite looks primed to add a fourth Grade 1 win to his tally. 

Trained by Todd Pletcher, the son of Violence will have to break from the 11-post on Saturday, which is a bit of a concern, but in a race with plenty of speed, he should be able to move over and find a good mid-pack early position. 

He stands over this field on every metric and looks to be destined as the horse to beat heading to Churchill Downs. His odds will be low, but anything other than a win would be a surprise. He is the top pick.

Fort Bragg

We will get a better idea of how the California horses stack up against the Eastern horses when this son of Tapit makes the trip for the Grade 1 Florida Derby. He has run five races out west so far and has faced good horses in each. 

After breaking his maiden over the talented Reincarnate three starts back, he has come up short against Practical Move in each of his first two tries against graded stakes company. 

His tactical running style should serve him well here, and the distance should not be a problem. He does not look like one of the best in the west, but he is a legitimate stakes horse in a race with much to be proven after Forte. He is a must-use in the exotics.


A well-bred son of Good Magic, this Danny Gargan-trainee will need to prove that he is as good on a dry track as he is on a wet one. To date, the jury is still out, as both of his wins have come on wet tracks. 

In fact, he is a Grade 2 winner. That came in last fall’s Remsen Stakes, where he enjoyed the sloppy surface at Aqueduct, as he did in his maiden win. His only race this year was a disappointment. 

He had some trouble early on, but he really showed little in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis. He is eligible to bounce back, but this is a tough spot to do it for the third choice on the morning line.

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This chestnut son of Good Magic still could be any kind. Trained by Gustavo Delgado, he looked the part of a very good horse in winning his debut nicely in January. 

They brought him right up to graded stakes company next time, and although he could only manage a fourth in the Fountain of Youth, he ran well. The trip was troubled and he stayed on well. Off that experience, I expect a better run on Saturday. 

There is speed in here, so he will need to show he can relax early, but I like the way he finished last time. After the obvious horse to beat, I believe this one has the best chance to run a big race on Saturday.

Cyclone Mischief

After a poor race as the favorite in the Grade 3 Holy Bull, this son of Into Mischief bounced back with a solid third-place finish behind Forte in the Fountain of Youth. 

He showed good early speed in that one, but now he faces a field that looks to have even more early pace, as he runs a sixteenth of a mile farther. Add to that the fact that there is still Forte to deal with here. 

I do believe that Dale Romans has a colt here who will become a stakes winner, I just can’t endorse his chances in this spot.  

West Coast Cowboy

The most accomplished of four entrants for trainer Saffie Joseph, Jr., this son of West Coast will attempt to build upon a good effort last time when third behind Rocket Can in the Holy Bull. 

His only win came in his career debut, which came over a sloppy Gulfstream Park track in a maiden race, which was followed by a fourth-place finish in allowance company. 

He knows the track and has improved each start, but this will be another level of competition after his decent stakes debut. He could prove to be a legitimate stakes horse down the road, but I like others better here.


Yet to actually cross the wire first in four career starts, this Bill Mott-trained runner looked to have some potential after improving in each of his first three races, culminating with an adjudged win in a Gulfstream Park maiden race. 

Unfortunately, his first stakes attempt went poorly as he was ranked in the Grade 3 Withers at Aqueduct and was not persevered down the stretch. 

It’s hard to like him after the performance, but there is a reason why his Hall of Fame trainer has entered him here. Still, it seems like a very tough spot for an unproven horse.

Nautical Star

An Oklahoma-bred son of Dixie Chatter, this colt moved to the barn of Saffie Joseph, Jr. after a pair of promising races at Oaklawn Park. 

In both races, he showed the ability to come from off the pace, which could be helpful on Saturday. The problem is that both races came in maiden sprints, so the jump up in both class and distance should prove daunting. 

This could be one to keep an eye on down the road, but as for this race, it looks like too much too soon.

Mr. Ripple

The third from the Joseph barn, this son of Dialed In has shown some promise in his first three career starts. In his only race as a juvenile, he won for fun, but in two starts this season he has not found the winner’s circle. 

Both performances were pretty good, though, pressing the pace and holding on for the third and second respectively. 

With a good amount of speed in the Florida Derby, including his stablemate below, even an improved effort here would seem like a lot to ask of a horse at this stage of his career.

Mr. Peeks

With only two career starts, this chestnut son of California Chrome looks to be thrown to the wolves on Saturday. 

Both races were in  6-furlong maidens, and while he showed plenty of early speed, he was unable to keep it going down the stretch for a victory. 

The fourth of four from the Joseph barn, this maiden looks to be an early pace presence, who has little shot to stick around when the real running begins.

Shaq Diesel

While this one has been able to win three of eight career starts, they all have come against far lesser competition than he will see in the Florida Derby. 

Now trained by Renaldo Richards, he was close to the pace for a while last time in the Grade 2 Risen Star at Fair Grounds, before backing out early and finishing tenth. 

It gets no easier here, and once again he looks like a big longshot with little to no chance for success.

Il Miracolo

Since breaking his maiden five starts ago, this son of Gun Runner has taken four shots in graded stakes company with no success. 

Most recently, he finished a full 19 lengths behind Forte as a huge longshot in the Fountain of Youth. 

There is little in his past performances to make me believe that he has any sort of chance on Saturday in his first try in Grade 1 company.

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How to Watch the Florida Derby

Florida Derby Race Information

  • What: Florida Derby (Grade 1)

  • Location: Gulfstream Park

  • Time: Saturday, April 1 -- 6:40 pm Eastern time

  • How to Watch: FanDuel TV

  • Purse: $1,000,000

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Brian Zipse

Horse Racing Betting Analyst

Horse Racing
Betting Picks
Taken to the races at a very young age, Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Professionally, his work has been published on several leading industry sites. Brian served as the Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, where he still writes a regular column and hosts the popular weekly webcast HorseCenter.
Nationality: American
Education: Bachelor of Communications
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15 years
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