03/13/2013 1:48PM

Florida Derby drawing little interest, so far

Tom Keyser
Itsmyluckyday is one of three confirmed runners for the Grade 1 Florida Derby.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – At last check, the purse for the Florida Derby is still $1 million and the race is still worth 170 Kentucky Derby qualifying points, including 100 to the winner. But at last check with the Gulfstream Park racing office, there are still only three 3-year-olds confirmed as starters for the race, the highly regarded trio of reigning 2-year-old champ Shanghai Bobby, Grade 3 Holy Bull winner Itsmyluckyday, and Grade 2 Fountain of Youth hero Orb.

The Grade 1 Florida Derby will be run March 30.

“It’s hard to believe at this point there seems to be so little interest in the Florida Derby,” racing secretary Dan Bork said. “I realize the top three contenders are currently among the leading Kentucky Derby candidates in the country, but it’s still a lot of money, a lot of qualifying points, and the race has been traditionally one of, if not the most successful and productive of all the Derby preps.”

Many top 3-year-olds who have wintered in south Florida are planning to head elsewhere for their final Derby preps. That list includes Verrazano, who is currently being pointed to the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April  6; Revolutionary, presently on course for the Louisiana Derby, also on March 30; Normandy Invasion (Wood); Delhomme (this weekend’s Rebel at Oaklawn); Overanalyze (Sunland Derby); Palace Malice (Louisiana Derby); Uncaptured (Turfway’s Spiral on March 23); Rydilluc (Keeneland’s Blue Grass on April 13); and Capo Bastone (Spiral).

[DERBY WATCH: Top 20 Kentucky Derby contenders with odds and video]

Part of Bork’s problem is that a majority of the premier 3-year-olds stabled in the area come from the same barn, with trainer Todd Pletcher doing his best to try to keep his Derby horses apart for as long as he can.

Bork said he and his staff have already started working the phones trying to solicit potential candidates from near and far into the starting gate for the 1 1/8-mile Florida Derby.

“I’d love to be able to talk Todd into leaving Verrazano here for the Florida Derby, but I understand the issue he has there with Shanghai Bobby in the race,” Bork said. “I’m hearing many of the other Derby preps could have overflow fields and here we are, for $1 million and all those points, trying to get people to run.”