03/06/2011 2:40PM

Florida Derby likely next for Stay Thirsty

David Alcosser
Stay Thirsty will return to Florida, where Gulfstream Park's Florida Derby is his most likely next-race option.

Stay Thirsty came out of his 3 1/4-length victory in Saturday’s Grade 3 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct in good order and is  tentatively scheduled to return to south Florida on Tuesday for his next probable start in the $1 million Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park on April 3, his connections said Sunday.

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According to assistant trainer Jonathan Thomas, Stay Thirsty on Sunday “looked good this morning, nice energy level, seemed pretty happy with himself.’’

 Stay Thirsty overcame a slow start and a pedestrian pace to win the Gotham going away over longshot Norman Asbjornson, who finished second by a length over Toby’s Corner. Stay Thirsty did switch back to his wrong lead after making the lead and did come in a step on Norman Asbjornson, which precipitated jockey Julian Pimentel to claim foul, but It was disallowed. Stay Thirsty, a son of Bernardini and a half-brother to 2005 Belmont Stakes runner-up Andromeda’s Hero, ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.78 and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 89.

 “For the circumstances I thought it was impressive off the layoff,’’ owner Mike Repole said.

 Thomas said that Stay Thirsty is booked to van back to the Palm Meadows training center in Florida on Tuesday, but added that  trainer Todd Pletcher and Repole were looking into the possibilities of flying the horse back to Florida.

 Repole said Sunday morning that his first inclination is run Stay Thirsty back in the Florida Derby with the $1 million Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park on April 16 as another option.

 “It depends how long it takes him to recover from a ship and a race like this,’’ Repole said. “And there could be other options.’’

 Repole is also the owner of Uncle Mo, last year’s 2-year-old champion, who is expected to make his 3-year-old debut this Saturday in the Timely Writer Stakes at Gulfstream Park. If that race doesn’t fill, then Uncle Mo would run in the Tampa Bay Derby, also Saturday. Repole is planning to use one of those races as a stepping-stone for Uncle Mo to the Grade 1, $750,000 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 9.

 Trainer Christopher Grove said Gotham runner-up Norman Asbjornson was “bouncing around the barn’’ at the Bowie training center  in Maryland, where he is based. Grove said he was pleased with his horse’s performance considering he hadn’t run in nearly two months. Grove said he wouldn’t totally rule out the Wood for his horse, but didn’t want to run against Uncle Mo.

 Grove said he does not consider Norman Asbjornson a Kentucky Derby horse, but that being a Maryland-based trainer he would like to run him in the Preakness. Grove mentioned the $250,000 Illinois Derby on April 9 at Hawthorne as a possible next start.

Graham Motion, the trainer of Toby’s Corner, also mentioned the Illinois Derby for his horse.

 “I can’t see coming up there running in the Wood if it’s going to be a tougher race,’’ Motion said. “The Illinois Derby probably makes sense. I don’t want to completely get off his bandwagon off one race.’’