03/09/2005 1:00AM

Florida Derby for B. B. Best


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - B. B. Best finished third behind High Fly and Bandini in Saturday's Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes, but the effort was good enough to earn B. B. Best a spot in the $1 million Florida Derby on April 2.

B. B. Best set the pace to the stretch, then continued on gamely after being headed by High Fly to finish 1 1/2 lengths behind in the 1 1/8-mile Fountain of Youth. The outing was only the second this year for B. B. Best, who was fourth following a slow start when making his 3-year-old debut in the six-furlong Sunshine Millions Dash on Jan. 29

"I thought his race in the Fountain of Youth was good for several reasons," said trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. "First of all, he got beat by two very good 3-year-olds. In addition, it was only his second start of the year and he really ran for only about a quarter-mile in the Sunshine Millions. It was also the first time he's ever tried a mile and one-eighth, while both High Fly and Bandini had already run twice and been nine furlongs earlier in the meet. And the racetrack wasn't exactly lightning- fast or favorable to speed horses and horses racing down on the rail on Saturday. Put it all together and he's got every license to improve off that race and run even better in the Florida Derby."

B. B. Best may get a chance to avenge his setback in the Fountain of Youth, with High Fly and Bandini also under serious consideration for the Florida Derby.

Mr. Light out of Canadian Turf 'Cap

Trainer Angel Penna Jr. has decided not to enter Mr. Light in Sunday's $100,000 Canadian Turf Handicap at Gulfstream. Mr. Light, who in his two starts here this winter set a world record for a mile and then won the Grade 3 Appleton Handicap, would have been the race's starting highweight under 117 pounds.

"I thought it was too much weight to carry," Penna said Wednesday. "I would have picked up three pounds off his last win and I just felt it was too much. If he won again he'd have had to carry even more the next time, and it's still early in the year."

Penna said the Canadian Turf would have fit perfectly into his plans, and he will have to go back to the drawing board and plan a new schedule for Mr. Light.

"The Shoemaker Mile at Hollywood Park on May 30 is our ultimate goal right now, and the timing would have been right to run him here and then perhaps back in the Maker's Mark Mile at Keeneland [April 15]," said Penna. "Now I'll have to take a look and see what's around before making any concrete plans."

Potential starters for the Canadian Turf include Icy Atlantic, Muqbil, Union Place, Old Forester, Wire Bound, Gulch Approval, Scooter Roach, and Broadway View.

The Canadian Turf will share top billing on Sunday's card with its filly counterpart, the Grade 3 Honey Fox Handicap. A full and well-matched field is expected for the Honey Fox, with highweights Angela's Love and Snowdrops both likely to pass the race.

Among the filly-and-mare grass specialists eyeing the Honey Fox are Fast Cookie, Potra Fabulous, River Belle, Where We Left Off, Changing World, Marwood, Mymich, Sand Springs, Shaconage, Silver Lace, and Cloakof Vagueness.

Cloakof Vagueness is coming off an allowance win over the local turf course on Feb. 3, a win that was flattered when the runner-up, Briviesca, came back to finish second by a neck in The Very One Handicap and the third-place finisher, Ellieonthemarch, won an allowance race Monday. Cloakof Vagueness has raced on the grass just twice in 21 career starts.

Cloakof Vagueness worked a bullet half-mile in 46 seconds over the Palm Meadows turf course Monday in preparation for the Honey Fox.

"She's sure training well and she's weighted right at 113 pounds," said trainer Phil Hauswald. "I still have the option of sending her to Tampa the following weekend if this race comes up too tough, but I'll at least go as far as entering her before making a decision."

* Rafael Bejarano, the leading rider this winter at Aqueduct, was making the rounds here during training hours Tuesday morning along with his agent, Jose Ferrer. Bejarano will be in town to accept mounts at Gulfstream on March 20 and 21, according to Ferrer, who was also soliciting business for the upcoming Keeneland meeting. Bejarano will be at Fair Grounds on Saturday to ride Runway Model in the Fair Grounds Oaks and Wallstreet Scandal in the Louisiana Derby.

* Stall applications for the 2005 racing season at Calder are due by Tuesday. Applications are available in the Calder racing office or can be obtained by calling 800-333-3227 (ex. 3216). The 2005 Calder meet begins April 25 and continues through Oct. 16. The Tropical meet runs from Oct. 17 until Jan. 2, 2006.