With the Kentucky Derby (G1) prep races in their final few weeks, usracing.com is publishing profiles of the contenders for the $750,000 Florida Derby (G1) on Saturday [March 27], a Derby points-qualifier offering 100-40-20-10 points to the first four finishers. Post-position and odds will be updated following Wednesday’s draw.
By Ed McNamara
His late move for second behind stablemate Candy Man Rocket in the 1 1/16-mile Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) was visually impressive. Upon further review, Nova Rags‘ two-turn debut was nothing special, because the final three-sixteenths went in a very sluggish 33 2/5 seconds. It looked even less promising after Candy Man Rocket folded in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2), finishing 11th as the 8-5 favorite. In Nova Rags’ previous race, the 7-furlong Pasco Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, he beat a weak field.
After the Sam F. Davis, assistant trainer Riley Mott, the son of Hall of Famer Bill Mott, said: “Nova Rags is a quality horse, he sat a good trip and has some speed. We weren’t sure about the two turns, so to see him come back and pass the two-turn test and run so well was pretty encouraging.”
Handicapping insight: Never rule out the likelihood of improvement in the hands of the masterful Bill Mott, but this colt’s speed figures are unimpressive, and he’d have to make a big move forward to compete in the Florida Derby with a colt as accomplished as Greatest Honour. I can see Nova Rags getting better as the year goes along. His pedigree says he’ll move up as the races get longer, but I won’t be putting any money on him on Saturday.
Post position: TBD
Trainer: Bill Mott
Owner: Michael Shanley
Career record: 4-2-1-0
Career earnings: $110,650
Best Equibase speed rating: 92
Pedigree: Union Rags-Wishful Splendor, by Smart Strike
Running style: Stalker
Notes: Nova Rags breezed 3 furlongs in 38.60 seconds Saturday at Tampa Bay Downs … The Florida Derby is one of the few major races that Mott never has won. The three-time Eclipse Award winner was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998 at age 45, the youngest trainer ever to receive that honor … His only Kentucky Derby victory came two years ago when 65-1 shot Country House was moved up on the disqualification of Maximum Security.
Ed McNamara is an award-winning journalist who has been writing about thoroughbred racing for 35 years. He has handicapped races for ESPN.com, Newsday and The Record of New Jersey. He is the author of “Cajun Racing: From the Bush Tracks to the Triple Crown” and co-author of “The Most Glorious Crown,” a chronicle of the first 12 Triple Crown champions.