03/20/2006 12:00AM

Florida Derby favorites work well

Bill Denver / EQUI-PHOTOS
Barbaro, under exercise rider Peter Britt, breezes five furlongs in 1:01.60 on Monday at Palm Meadows.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Barbaro and Flashy Bull, the likely favorite and second choice for the $1 million Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park on April 1, turned in their final major works for the race about five minutes apart early Monday morning at the Palm Meadows training center.

Barbaro was the first of the two 3-year-olds to work, going in company with a pair of stablemates under his regular exercise rider, Peter Britt. Barbaro broke off behind his two mates and even encountered traffic problems down the stretch before pulling away and continuing on strongly around the clubhouse turn to the one-mile pole.

"The plan was to start him off behind the other two and teach him to rate a little more," explained trainer Michael Matz. "Unfortunately, when he tried to split the pair the horse on the inside came out a little bit and bumped and stopped Barbaro for a moment. Peter yelled 'Hey, we're on the same team here' to the other rider and Barbaro just waited and went right through when the hole opened up again."

Barbaro, who has won all four career starts, including the Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes here on Feb. 4, was timed five furlongs in 1:01.60, then galloped out six furlongs in 1:14, according to Matz.

"He went very well," said Matz. "He had a nice work. I'm very pleased with the way he is right now and if everything continues to go well, we're ready to run."

Matz said Barbaro will blow out an easy half-mile next Monday or Tuesday.

Flashy Bull was warming up while Barbaro worked, then broke off shortly thereafter, breezing five furlongs in 1:01.

"It was perfect," said Neal McLaughlin, the brother of and assistant to trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, who is in the United Arab Emirates this week in advance of Saturday's Dubai World Cup. "He galloped out great. I got him in 1:13.60. We're really happy with him. He's coming along very well."

Flashy Bull finished third and was placed second via the disqualification of Corinthian earlier this month in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes.

A small field remains likely for the Florida Derby, and along with Barbaro and Flashy Bull could include Sunriver, Great Point, Rehoboth, and Sharp Humor.

Trainer Todd Pletcher said Sunriver was a definite for the race and could be joined by stablemate Saint Augustus, who is owned by Dogwood Stables.

"I'll talk it over with the people from Dogwood and see what they want to do," said Pletcher, "although if it looks like it's going to be a short field of eight or less he'll definitely run."

J'ray too late for Lasix

J'ray, an unexpected late scratch from Sunday's Herecomesthebride Stakes, worked a slow half-mile in 51 at Palm Meadows on Monday. J'ray, who would have been an odds-on favorite in the Herecomesthebride, was ordered scratched by track officials after arriving on the grounds too late to receive her Lasix injection.

"She was supposed to get the Lasix by 10:44 a.m. and she logged in at the gate at 10:45," said trainer Todd Pletcher. "So they wouldn't let her run."

State steward Kevin Scheen said: "Even though J'ray was only a minute late, it was several minutes later before she got off the van, got settled in her stall, and the veterinarian arrived to give her the shot. And in this state the rule is very clear. No horse can run who gets Lasix less than four hours before the race. There is absolutely no grace period allowed."

Other notables to work at Palm Meadows on Monday included Dubai Escapade, Noonmark, Blazing Pursuit, and trainer Graham Motion's turf stars Better Talk Now and Film Maker.

Dubai Escapade, Madcap Escapade's baby sister, went a half-mile in a brisk 46 over the fast track. Dubai Escapade has won both her starts during the meet. She is trained by Eoin Harty.

Blazing Pursuit, who returned from a long layoff to win an allowance race here earlier in the meet, went six furlongs in 1:13.60.

Noonmark, a neck behind Sharp Humor in the Grade 2 Swale on March 4, went an easy five-eighths in 1:03 and is being pointed for either the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland or the Derby Trial at Churchill Downs.

Shaun Bridgmohan, Noonmark's regular rider, won four races on Monday's card to solidify his hold on seventh place in the local standings.

Tiger Fever tries to make amends

Tiger Fever will likely go off the favorite over six rivals in Wednesday's $33,000 allowance feature carded for fillies and mares going five furlongs on the turf.

Tiger Fever finished seventh as the 3-2 favorite under similar conditions on Feb. 10 after missing by a nose against similar competition three weeks earlier.

Her chief rivals will be Stephie's Cat and Arvilla Priscilla.