03/08/2004 12:00AM

Florida Derby field may increase


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - The field for Saturday's $1 million Florida Derby, which had been stuck at six after Master David's defection on Friday, could grow to as many as eight or nine by the time entries for the race are drawn at Gulfstream Park on Wednesday morning.

Read the Footnotes, winner of the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes on Feb. 14, is among the six confirmed starters for the 1 1/8-mile Florida Derby, along with Tapit, The Cliff's Edge, Value Plus, Sir Oscar, and Friends Lake. By Monday, though, the connections of Notorious Rogue, Farnum Alley, and Frisky Spider were all showing an interest in running in the Grade 1 fixture.

"We might take a shot in there," said Mark Hennig, who trains Notorious Rogue. "It looks like it could be a short field with not a lot of depth. And the purse is $1 million."

Notorious Rogue finished third in the Grade 1 Hopeful at 2. He is coming off perhaps his best effort yet. He was second, beaten three-quarters of a length by Forest Grove, under allowance conditions while racing with blinkers for the first time on Feb. 25.

Farnum Alley was a game winner of a first-level allowance race earlier in the meet but finished a well-beaten fifth behind Birdstone on Feb. 14. Trainer Anthony Reinstedler said he would likely make a decision after his horse worked at Palm Meadows on Tuesday.

"If you're going to go for the bigger races, the only way to find out is to put him in the heat of battle," said Reinstedler. "I wasn't real happy with his last race but I think it's a throw-out. He was bad in the paddock and wasn't himself that day."

Reinstedler is also considering Sunday's Grade 3 Tampa Bay Derby for Farnum Alley.

Trainer Bob Durso said he was leaning toward the seven-furlong Swale on the Florida Derby undercard after watching Frisky Spider work five furlongs from the gate with blinkers in 58.80 seconds on Saturday. But by Monday, he was having second thoughts.

"I'm still considering the Florida Derby," said Durso. "Especially if it looks like the race is going to come up a short field. I probably won't make a decision until entries are taken Wednesday."

Tapit, The Cliff's Edge, and Friends Lake all had their final preps for the Florida Derby on Monday.

Tapit worked five furlongs in 1:07 at trainer Michael Dickenson's Tapeta Farm in Maryland under exercise rider Alan Gorman. Dick Fiske, the stable manager for Tapit's owner, Ron Winchell, was on hand for the workout and announced that Edgar Prado had picked up the mount on Tapit for the Florida Derby. Prado had originally been scheduled to ride Master David.

Tapit is scheduled to fly to Fort Lauderdale on Tuesday and will have his first gallop at Gulfstream on Wednesday morning.

The Cliff's Edge worked five furlongs in 1:01 at Palm Meadows.

"He really did it nice. I'm real happy," said trainer Nick Zito. "I always think he's going to run well."

Zito was also happy to learn that Master David was out of the Florida Derby.

"Any time you get a Bobby Frankel horse out of there it's a plus," said Zito.

Friends Lake worked a half mile in 52 seconds at Payson Park.

- additional reporting by David Grening