Saturday horse racing: Arkansas Derby and Florida Derby

The road to the Kentucky Derby picks up several passengers Saturday at Gulfstream Park’s Florida Derby and Oaklawn’s Arkansas Derby. Turfway Park in Northern Kentucky also will audition its best. By day’s end, a quarter (or more) of the starting gate for the first Saturday in May could be filled out.

Ladies (and most-intriguing storyline) first: The Arkansas Derby presents flashy filly Secret Oath for 86-year-old training legend D. Wayne Lukas. Meanwhile, the Florida Derby will rematch Gulfstream winter-season stakes winners Simplification and White Abarrio while welcoming Tampa Bay Derby victor Classic Causeway.

Handicappers following stakes races at Gulfstream Park during the winter championship meet have witnessed the following trends:

Stakes favorites: 38.5% wins, 72.3% top 3

Average $2 winning stakes payout: $9.24

Top stakes jockeys: Jose Ortiz (5-18, 28%), Luis Saez (12-45, 27%), Irad Ortiz Jr. (5-23, 22%)

Top stakes trainers: Eddie Plesa (3-6, 50%), Todd Pletcher (13-35, 37%), Christophe Clement (4-13, 31%)

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About Editor

Rich Nilsen is a 19-time qualifier to the National Horseplayers Championship (NHC), an event he has cashed in four times. He was the first player to finish in the top 10 of the NHC twice. A former executive with Brisnet.com and a member of the NHC Players’ Committee, Rich is a graduate of the University of Louisville Equine Business Program and is founder of AGameofSkill.com, a site devoted to horse racing education and promotion.

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