Horse Racing

Poor post ‘no problem’ for Florida Derby favorite Gunnevera

Gunnevera, winning the Fountain of Youth Stakes last month at Gulfstream Park, is the 9-5 favorite to win the Florida Derby -- his final prep race before the Kentucky Derby.
Gunnevera, winning the Fountain of Youth Stakes last month at Gulfstream Park, is the 9-5 favorite to win the Florida Derby -- his final prep race before the Kentucky Derby. adiaz@miamiherald.com

The best horse got the worst post.

Gunnevera was made the 9-5 favorite to win Saturday’s Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park.

But he’ll have his work cut out.

Not only must the colt get past 10 rivals in the 1 1/8-mile stakes, but must also overcome a disadvantageous starting post: post 11 on the far outside.

“No problem,” said his trainer, Antonio Sano.

Big problem said one rival trainer.

“He got a terrible spot, in my opinion,” said Ron Sanchez, trainer of 50-1 long shot Quinientos.

Gunnevera vaulted to the forefront of leading Kentucky Derby contenders last month when he won the Fountain of Youth Stakes convincingly. He is listed as the second choice behind McCracken in the Kentucky Derby future book.

The Florida Derby will be his final prep before the Run for the Roses.

Sano isn’t all that concerned about the poor post position. Based on Gunnevera’s come-from-behind running style, he figures on his horse dropping back at the break and moving into a ground-saving position near the rail entering the first turn under the guidance of jockey Javier Castellano.

“If my horse had speed, it would be a problem,” Sano said. “But my horse will be in back, so no problem. Castellano can make his way to the inside, then make his run.”

That formula worked in the March 4 Fountain of Youth when Gunnevera dropped back to last in the field of 10 before mounting a charge and pulling away for a 5 3/4-length victory over Practical Joke.

Trainer Todd Pletcher entered both Always Dreaming and Battalion Runner in a quest for his fourth Florida Derby success, although Battalion Runner was entered as a back-up and is not expected to run. Battalion Runner is rated second in the morning line at 3-1, while Always Dreaming is third at 4-1.

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