03/16/2010 12:00AM

Eskendereya among Florida Derby workers


BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. - Eskendereya, the East Coast's leading Kentucky Derby candidate, completed preparations for Saturday's $750,000 Florida Derby with a solid five-furlong work in 1:02.58 Sunday morning at Palm Meadows.

Eskendereya, with jockey John Velazquez up, went in fractions of 13.08 seconds, 25.67, 38.01 and came home his final quarter in 24.57. He galloped out six furlongs in 1:15.60 and continued out seven furlongs in 1:30.66. As is his custom, Eskendereya galloped out so strongly that he wasn't completely pulled up until assistant trainer Tristan Barry, atop a stable pony, picked him up at the half-mile pole.

Eskendereya worked just after daybreak, 7:30 a.m., a time when the track was yielding significantly slower times than after the renovation break.

"The track was definitely slower before the break," trainer Todd Pletcher said. "He got his last quarter in 24 and 2, galloped out well, seemed very relaxed and happy doing it."

Eskendereya was one of several 3-year-olds Pletcher worked Sunday at Palm Meadows. Rule, who is possible for the Florida Derby but just as likely for the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 3, worked five furlongs in 1:01.12 in company with the older horse Battle Plan. That duo, which worked after the renovation break, came home in 24.64 seconds and galloped out in 1:14.07.

Discreetly Mine, who is targeting the Louisiana Derby on March 27, went five furlongs in 1:04.34 during the same set in which Eskendereya breezed. Double Partner, who has run two straight times on turf, worked five furlongs in 1:01.58, getting his last quarter in 24.49 seconds. Doubles Partner is being pointed to the Lane's End Stakes at Turfway Park on March 27.

Also working at Palm Meadows Sunday was Florida Derby hopeful Soaring Empire, who won a first-level allowance race by three-quarters of a length here on Feb. 25 for trainer Cam Gambolati. Soaring Empire worked a solid five furlongs, in company, in 1:00.33 under regular rider Eddie Castro. Soaring Empire started about a half-length off his workmate and finished about a half-length in front while galloping out six furlongs in 1:14.60.

"I didn't even want to go that fast, but he does things so effortlessly," Gambolati said. "He'll do whatever you want to do and then shut it off. The bottom line is he doesn't have the experience to go two turns against these kind of horses, but it's the only chance we have [to make the Derby]. I have to think he'll give a good account of himself no matter what."

At Gulfstream, Florida Derby candidates Pleasant Prince and First Dude both worked five furlongs. Pleasant Prince covered the distance in 59.20 seconds, while First Dude went the same distance in 1:02.