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.
2021 Florida Derby Entries: Nova Rags
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.