Updated on 09/17/2011 10:05AM

Can the speed rule in this derby?

Trainer Bobby Frankel has added blinkers to Empire Maker's equipment to keep the colt close to the expected Florida Derby pacesetter Trust N Luck, who got alone on the lead in his Fountain of Youth win.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Handicapping 101 teaches us that when the best horse in a race is also the lone speed and said race is run over an inside-speed-favoring surface such as Gulfstream Park, bet as much as you want.

Saturday's Florida Derby can't be that simple, can it? After all, it's a $1 million, Grade 1 race on the road to the Kentucky Derby. There has to be some horse among the six other participants who can make Trust N Luck - said best and lone-speed horse in aforementioned race - work for his money.

There are several scenarios that could play out Saturday that would make the nine-furlong Florida Derby more than simply a replay of last month's Grade 1 Fountain of Youth Stakes, when Trust N Luck sped uncontested to a 5 1/4-length victory.

First, the connections of longshot Formal Attire have been frustrated by a series of troubled trips that have left their horse with just one victory from six starts. Saturday, trainer Phil Serpe plans to let Formal Attire be a free-runner. The question is whether he is fast enough to keep up with Trust N Luck, who will break from the rail under Cornelio Velasquez.

"If he wants to run," Serpe said of Formal Attire, then jockey Eibar Coa "is going to let him run. We're all on the same page. I'm running this horse in the Florida Derby - am I going to be upset if he's in front entering the first turn?"

Second, Midway Cat could have dueled with Trust N Luck in the Fountain of Youth, but jockey Jorge Chavez wrestled with the colt to take him off the pace. While Rick Hiles, the trainer of Midway Cat, would prefer that his horse relax early, he said that should Midway Cat show that same eagerness on Saturday, he wants Chavez to let him run.

Third, trainer Bobby Frankel is putting blinkers on Empire Maker, who has gotten himself too far out of it before rallying belatedly in both the Remsen Stakes last fall and the Sham Stakes last month. Frankel has already suggested the blinkers have made Empire Maker more aggressive.

Moreover, Jerry Bailey will be aboard Empire Maker. It is unlikely Bailey, who will be riding in his record-tying 18th Florida Derby, will let Trust N Luck have things too easy up front for too long.

"If I have to go after him I will," said Bailey, who has finished second in four of the last five Florida Derbies. "I've done it before, and I'll do it again if that's what it takes to win. The blinkers will help to place him a little better.'

Ralph Ziadie, the trainer of Trust N Luck, doesn't care how the race plays out. While he believes his horse will be in front, he also believes Trust N Luck can come from off the pace if need be. Ziadie also said his horse is stronger than he was going into the last race.

"He went into the Fountain of Youth I'd say at 95 percent," Ziadie said. "This race I have no excuses whatsoever. He's going into it 110 percent."

Empire Maker should be tighter with a race under his belt and has been training exceptionally well since blinkers have been added. Still, Frankel said he won't despair should his horse lose on Saturday.

"I just want to see him run a good race and look like he wants more ground," Frankel said.

Off-the-pace runners Supah Blitz, Senor Swinger, and Indy Dancer complete the field. Supah Blitz rode the rails the entire way to be second in the Fountain of Youth. Trainer Manny Tortora has been critical of the speed-favoring nature of Gulfstream, and said, "We got to get lucky in the race.'

Senor Swinger will be making his stakes debut after winning a maiden race in Chicago and dead-heating for the win with Ten Cents a Shine in an entry-level allowance race here. Trainer Mickey Goldfine said this race is a stepping-stone to the Illinois Derby.

The Florida Derby is a vital race for Indy Dancer. After impressing many with an eye-catching late move to win an entry-level allowance here on Jan. 4, he ran a head-scratching seventh as the favorite in the Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds Feb. 16. Trainer Todd Pletcher said Indy Dancer needs a much-improved effort to remain on the Derby trail.

Saturday's 12-race card begins at noon, with gates opening at 10:30 a.m. The Florida Derby will go off at 4:18 p.m. Eastern and be shown live on ESPN2.

- additional reporting by Mike Welsch


Florida Derby

$1 million; 1 1/8 miles; Grade 1

1Trust N LuckC. Velasquez8-5
2Supah BlitzR. Homeister Jr.10-1
3Midway CatJ. Chavez12-1
4Indy DancerJ. Velazquez6-1
5Senor SwingerE. Prado9-2
6Empire MakerJ. Bailey9-5
7Formal AttireE. Coa20-1

All starters carry 122 pounds

- Odds by Dan Illman

Television: Saturday, 4-4:30 p.m. Eastern, ESPN2

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