Updated on 09/17/2011 1:13PM

Friends Lake in a stunner

Email
Horsephotos
Friends Lake (2) and jockey Richard Migliore rush past Value Plus (8) to win the Grade 1, Florida Derby on Saturday. Like even-money favorite Read the Footnotes, Friends Lake is a New York-bred.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Few people were surprised that a New York-bred won Saturday's $1 million , not even-money favorite Read the Footnotes, who finished a tiring fourth.

In his start prior to the Florida Derby, Friends Lake had finished a well-beaten third in the Jan. 17 Holy Bull Stakes after acting up badly in the paddock. Trainer John Kimmel had since shipped Friends Lake from his Payson Park base on several occasions to school in the Gulfstream Park paddock.

"He was just out of control in the paddock before the Holy Bull, and we spent many, many days down here schooling him," said Kimmel. "I think the one thing we learned from all this is that a horse that's anxious and upset won't go out and run their 'A' race."

Friends Lake did not turn a hair in the paddock Saturday, but was reluctant to load into the starting gate for the Grade 1 race. He settled in midpack during the opening six furlongs, and advanced willingly when roused by jockey Richard Migliore leaving the backstretch. He came four wide into the stretch before running down Value Plus inside the sixteenth pole.

Value Plus and Read the Footnotes tracked the early pace of Frisky Spider, who set fractions of 23.44 seconds and 47.05, then dropped back after five furlongs. Value Plus hooked up with a rail-skimming Read the Footnotes leaving the backstretch and the pair dueled for command into the stretch, at which point Value Plus gradually edged clear before succumbing to the winner's final surge. Value Plus finished three-quarters of a length in front of The Cliff's Edge, who was coming on willingly at the end despite encountering mild trouble.

Tapit finished a tiring sixth in his 3-year-old debut. Trainer Michael Dickinson said that Tapit coughed on the way back to the barn, and it was discovered he had some mucus in his lungs.

"On a scale of 1 to 5 it was a 3, but probably indicates some kind of lung infection," said Dickinson. "At the moment we don't have a plan for when he'll run next."

Friends Lake, a son of A.P. Indy out of the Grade 1-winning mare Antespend, was bred in New York by owners Chester and Mary Broman. He paid $76.80 after covering 1 1/8 miles in 1:51.38 over a fast but somewhat cuppy racetrack.

Kimmel indicated that he might train Friends Lake up to the Kentucky Derby.

"He proved he was good enough to compete with these horses and run his 'A' race off an eight-week layoff," Kimmel said, "so strategically I think it makes sense to just train him into the Kentucky Derby."

Trainer Rick Violette said that in all likelihood Read the Footnotes's gut-wrenching performance in the Fountain of Youth caught up with him down the stretch on Saturday.

"I guess the Fountain of Youth hit him at the eighth pole," said Violette. "The way the track was playing, and from where he was turning for home, he was supposed to win."