03/19/2010 6:55PM

Florida Derby Time


Five of Saturday's graded stakes are at Gulfstream Park and they'll be run in sequence as the 7th through 11th races, culminating in the Florida Derby, the first Grade 1 race of the year for 3-year-old males:


The Florida Derby drew a field of 11 that includes only two stakes-winners, 5-2 ML favorite Rule and 3-1 second choice Radiohead. Their nine opponents include seven who have yet to win more than a maiden race, including co-third choices Miner's Reserve, coming off a 5 1/2-length romp, and Lentenor, Barbaro's full brother, who will be making his dirt debut.

I've got no knocks on Rule against this bunch but there might be some money to be made ducking Radiohead, who's unproven routing, and Lentenor, a likely underlay due to sentimental support.

For those without HRTV, the NTRA is giving a live webcast another shot after "technical difficulties" locked out almost everyone who tried to watch live streaming of the New Orleans Ladies and Santa Margarita last Saturday. The NTRA site nearly crashed from unprecedented demand. This week's webcast of the Florida Derby is scheduled for 6 to 7 p.m.

"[F]ans will be automatically diverted from our site to a different one containing the live Florida Derby video should anything unforeseen go awry," said NTRA President Alex Waldrop. "This week I prefer to wear a belt AND a pair of suspenders."

The 12-race Florida Derby card also includes the G2 Bonnie Miss and G2 Swale, with D'Funnybone 6-5 in the latter. D'Funnybone will be shooting for his fourth G2 victory after winning the Saratoga Special and Belmont Futurity last year and the Hutcheson Feb. 20. He concluded his juvenile campaign by finishing 13th and last in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Can you name the horse who finished 12th and last one year earlier in the BC Juve?

Yup, Mine That Bird.

Other notable last-place finishers in that race: Grand Slam (1997), A. P. Valentine (2000) and Cuvee (2003).

--Last Tuesday, I went up (3:41) and back (4:05) to Saratoga for the day to find a new house, as our former landlords got a little ambitious and tried to hit us with a 37 percent rent increase for the four extra nights of the 2010 season. Found a perfectly nice replacement at last year's prices.

I can report that the town looked as inviting as ever on a sparkling, spring-like day. They had a milder winter than we downstaters did and I didn't see a speck of snow on the ground. Everyone up there is nervous about NYRA's ongoing cash-flow problems stemming from the state's failure to honor the franchise agreement and provide promised funds until the Aqueduct racino is up and running, but still expecting  there to be an Opening Day on Friday, July 23.