03/29/2006 12:00AM

Florida Derby gets a little crowded


The field for Saturday's $1 million Florida Derby grew to 11 horses by the time the race was closed and drawn on Wednesday with the additions of Hesanoldsalt and Sam's Ace. The turn of events may have provided an unexpected stumbling block for the undefeated Barbaro, who drew post 10 for the Grade 1 race, the marquee event on the Gulfstream Park stakes schedule.

Trainer Michael Matz, who has pointed Barbaro for the Florida Derby ever since his victory in the Holy Bull Stakes here on Feb. 4, did not attend the draw but took the news of Barbaro's post position in stride.

"Obviously we'd have preferred a better post, but there's not much we can do about it now, and I'm sure he's going to face a lot more adversity in his career then drawing the 10-hole for the Florida Derby," said Matz. "Heck, if he gets that for the Kentucky Derby we'll be happy."

Barbaro was established as the 8-5 morning line favorite by track handicapper Chuck Streva for the 1 1/8-mile Florida Derby. Barbaro has won all four career starts, the first three on turf and the fourth over a sloppy track in the Holy Bull. Edgar Prado will again have the mount. "It's a short run to the first turn, but he's got tactical speed, and I think he should be able to put himself in a good spot," said Matz.

Flashy Bull, the second choice at 4-1, fared better at the draw and will break from post 2 under Rafael Bejarano. Flashy Bull finished fourth, nearly four lengths behind Barbaro, after a three-wide trip in the Holy Bull. He crossed the finish line third but was placed second behind odds-on favorite First Samurai via the disqualification of Corinthian one month later in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth.

Hesandoldsalt is one of two horses entered in the Florida Derby by trainer Nick Zito, along with Doc Cheney. Todd Pletcher will also send out a pair, Sunriver and Saint Augustus. All four will run as separate betting interests.

Trainer Doug O'Neill made a last-minute decision to ship California-bred Sam's Ace across country for the race. Sam's Ace, claimed for $32,000 out of his career debut at Del Mar for owners J. Paul Reddam and Aron Wellman, has captured 3 of his 4 starts, including an entry-level allowance race for statebreds going a mile at Santa Anita on March 11. Unfortunately, he had even worse luck at the draw than Barbaro and will break from the extreme outside in post 11.

"It was a group decision amongst myself and the owners to take a chance and send him," said O'Neill. "We thought it might be a good opportunity to test the big boys and see where we were. The post is a bummer but we're not going to let it bum us out."

The remainder of the lineup consists of Rehoboth, Sharp Humor, High Blues, and Charming Image.