Thursday, March 18, 2010

Rule draws post 7 as Fla. Derby favorite

Mike Welsch,
Daily Racing Form

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Rule, the 5-2 morning-line favorite, will break from post 7 in a field of 11 3-year-olds entered for Saturday's $750,000 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park.

Rule, the only graded stakes winner in the field, will be ridden by jockey John Velazquez.

"It's a good post for him," Velazquez said after the draw. "He should be able to get good position from there. He'll be forwardly placed but doesn't necessarily have to be on the lead."

Radiohead, the 3-1 second choice on linemaker Chuck Streva's morning line for the Grade 1 Florida Derby, was not as fortunate. He will break from the extreme outside in post position 11 on Saturday.

"Our horse breaks good and he's got natural speed," Radiohead's trainer Rick Dutrow said when asked prior to the draw about the possible consequences of being forced to break from the outside with such a short run to the first turn in nine-furlong races at Gulfstream Park.

"A big field helps us because maybe some of the other big players will get in trouble," Dutrow said.

Edgar Prado will ride Radiohead, an impressive allowance winner in his local and 3-year-old debut.

The entire field, in post position order, consists of Soaring Empire (Eddie Castro); Lentenor (Alan Garcia); Pulsion (Corey Nakatani); Pleasant Prince (Julien Leparoux); Game on Dude (Jeremy Rose); First Dude (Ramon Dominguez); Rule; Ice Box (Jose Lezcano); Miner's Reserve (Kent Desormeaux); Best Actor (Javier Castellano); and Radiohead.

The Florida Derby lost its main attraction when Eskendereya, who would have been the race's odds-on favorite, defected to await the Wood Memorial on April 3. But in his place, Gulfstream Park's marquee event picked up several late entries. Plans to run Lentenor, Miner's Reserve, and Best Actor were not finalized until less than 24 hours before entries closed on Wednesday.

"Obviously it's a huge disappointment to lose what at this point would probably be the Kentucky Derby favorite," racing secretary Dan Bork said of Eskendereya. "What every track points for with its Derby prep races is to attract the big horse at the right time. But they've got their plans and we can't do anything about that. On the flip side, we've picked up a few more starters and wind up with a much more attractive betting race without him. We've got a solid group, they're all legit, and I think we'll see more than one horse coming from this race and going into the Kentucky Derby."

Trainer Michael Matz, who used Barbaro's victory in the 2006 Florida Derby as a final prep for his memorable performance five weeks later in the Kentucky Derby, waited until Wednesday morning before making the final decision to enter Lentenor, Barbaro's little brother, who has started just four times and never on dirt.

"We're sort of at the point now where we want to give him a chance somewhere to see if he can qualify for the Kentucky Derby," said Matz. "The fact he worked good the other day with other horses and came out of it well went into the decision, and naturally it makes us feel a little better that Todd is running only one of his two good 3-year-olds, since they are sort of standouts both talent- and experience-wise."

Nick Zito, whose Ice Box had been a confirmed Florida Derby starter all along, said the choice to run recent maiden winner Miner's Reserve was made Tuesday, prior to the announcement that Eskendereya would not run.

Zito said Desormeaux helped persuade owner Robert La Penta to enter Miner's Reserve.

"I had other plans for the horse but he worked very well here last weekend and Kent was politicking with the owner to run him in the Florida Derby," Zito explained. "After the two of us conferred with Bob, we decided to enter and see what the deal is."

* D' Funnybone, winner of the Grade 2 Hutcheson here last month, will be heavily favored to defeat eight other 3-year-olds in the $150,000 Swale. The Grade 3 race will be decided at seven furlongs and also drew Hear Ye Hear Ye, Silver Craft, Ibboyee, City Trooper, Fearless Cowboy, Dixie Band, Gary D, and Privilaged.

* Amen Hallelujah and Christine Daae will be the feature attractions in the Grade 2, $200,000 Bonnie Miss for 3-year-old fillies. Amen Hallelujah coasted to a six length victory in the one-mile Davona Dale three weeks ago. Joanie's Catch, runner-up in the Davona Dale, Danny's Friend, Switch, and Devil May Care complete the field.

* Unrivaled Belle and Miss Singhsix may vie for favoritism among a field of eight older fillies and mares set to go nine furlongs in the Grade 3, $150,000 Rampart. Kiss the Kid returns against eight others to defend his title in the Grade 3, $100,000 Appleton at 7 1/2 furlongs on the turf.

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