03/28/2016 12:46PM

Florida Derby: Fellowship in it to win it

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Barbara D. Livingston
Fellowship (above) must face champion Nyquist and leading Kentucky Derby contender Mohaymen in the Florida Derby.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – The prevailing feeling is that Saturday’s $1 million Florida Derby is actually two races in one: Mohaymen vs. Nyquist for first and second, and everyone else against Fellowship for third and the $100,000 and 20 Kentucky Derby qualifying points that go with it.

Stanley Gold, who trains the homebred Fellowship for Jacks or Better Farm, is one of the few who do not ascribe to that theory.

“Every interview I read, everybody not connected with the two favorites says they’re hoping to finish third, so it’s like they’re running in a separate race from the big two, and I guess none of them gives Fellowship any respect,” said Gold. “But I’m not worried about them. I’m running for first or second. I’ll settle for third if that’s what happens.”

Fellowship has already finished third behind Mohaymen in each of the first two Florida Derby preps, the Grade 2 Holy Bull and Grade 2 Fountain Youth, both at 1 1/16 miles, and has amassed enough qualifying points to be in position to get into the Kentucky Derby field even if he doesn’t finish first or second in the 1 1/8-mile Florida Derby.

“We’re running against arguably the best 3-year-olds in the country, but I am where I am, and I’m not looking to avoid them,” said Gold.

“He’s already been third to Mohaymen twice, and they were both honest races. The extra distance will certainly be an aid because we know he’ll run late, and if we are actually lucky enough and decide to go to the Kentucky Derby, I’m not worried about the mile and one-quarter either. And having a little bigger field, as it seems we will now, should work to our advantage from a pace standpoint as well. I believe I’m running a live horse in there on Saturday. I don’t know how live, but he’s live.”

The late-running Fellowship has not worked since breezing four furlongs in 46.43 seconds on March 19, and Gold said he’ll not have another work prior to the race.

“He goes fast in the morning – he’s been that way forever,”said Gold. “He’s got the speed, but he doesn’t want to show it when he runs. I found that out the hard way in a race last year at Calder. If you let him use his speed, he doesn’t finish.”

As of Monday, Fellowship is one of seven 3-year-olds expected to be in the Florida Derby field when entries are drawn Wednesday. The others are Mohaymen, Nyquist, Majesto, Takeittotheedge, Sawyers Mickey, and Fashionable Freddy.

Trainer Peter Walder said Monday that Ifyousnoozeyoulose, who’d originally been considered a possible starter, would not be entered. Walder will saddle Sawyers Mickey, who is graded stakes-placed but still a maiden. Sawyers Mickey worked four furlongs in 48.07 and galloped out five-eighths in 1:01.65 just before the track closed for training here Monday.

Todd Pletcher said Monday he likely won’t enter a horse to defend the Florida Derby title he’s won the last two years with Constitution and Materiality.

Nyquist, who was originally expected to arrive from the West Coast on Monday, had his travel plans delayed and was scheduled to be at Gulfstream Park on Tuesday. He will be accompanied on the flight by stablemate Gomo, whom trainer Doug O’Neill decided to supplement to the small field pointing for Saturday’s Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks.