03/26/2012 2:57PM

Gulfstream: Seven probable for Florida Derby


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – The fields for the seven stakes races on Saturday’s Florida Derby day program at Gulfstream Park are all but set, including the main event, which features a confrontation between division leader Union Rags and leading Kentucky Derby contender El Padrino.

Saturday’s card did lose some of its luster with the announcement Sunday that the undefeated, Eclipse Award winner Awesome Feather would not run in the Grade 3 Rampart as scheduled. The Rampart was to feature the much anticipated duel between Awesome Feather and Grade 1 winner Awesome Maria.

“It looks like the Florida Derby is shaping up as one of if not the best Kentucky Derby prep of the season to this point,” said racing secretary Dan Bork. “And it’s a shame we lost Awesome Feather for the Rampart, which would have been the race of the meet aside from the Florida Derby had she and Awesome Maria run against one another.”

A field of seven remained confirmed for the $1 million Florida Derby as of Monday. The Florida Derby will be drawn at 12:40 p.m. on Wednesday at a special Derby luncheon hosted by the New England Patriots’ Vince Wilfork, a native of Boynton Beach, the home of Gulfstream Park’s satellite training center Palm Meadows. The remainder of Saturday’s 13-race program will be drawn later that afternoon.

Post time for Saturday’s card will be 12:30 p.m. with the Florida Derby scheduled to go off at approximately 5:45 p.m.

The only recent changes in the Florida Derby field have been jockey assignments with Elvis Trujillo now confirmed aboard Reveron, Rajiv Maragh named on Fountain of Youth runner-up News Pending, Jeffrey Sanchez set to replace Maragh on Fort Loudon, and Edgar Prado listed to ride Neck ‘n Neck for trainer Ian Wilkes.

The remainder of the prospective lineup, including riders, consists of Union Rags (Julien Leparoux); El Padrino (Javier Castellano), and Take Charge Indy (Calvin Borel).

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin did not rule out the possibility that Alpha, who is currently stabled at Palm Meadows, could remain in town to run in the Florida Derby although his number one option at the moment remains the Grade 1 Wood the following Saturday at Aqueduct.

“At the moment, he is scheduled to leave for New York on Friday,” said McLaughlin.

Prado will be seeking his fourth victory in the Florida Derby, having previously won the race with Scat Daddy (2007), Barbaro (2006), and Harlan’s Holiday (2000). Leparoux will be trying to win the Florida Derby for the second consecutive year, having guided Dialed In to victory for trainer Nick Zito in 2011.

Neck n Neck, a troubled fourth behind Union Rags in the Fountain of Youth, worked five furlongs in 1:01.09 at Palm Meadows on Monday.

More fillies needed for Rampart

The defection of Awesome Feather has left Bork scrambling to fill the Rampart with only four confirmed starters as of Monday – Awesome Maria, Go Unbridled, Lacie Slew and My Pal Chrissy.

“Hopefully we’ll get at least one from Marty Wolfson, who has three fillies nominated for the race,” said Bork.

Wolfson nominated Amor De Palacio, Beloveda, and Canadian Mistress to the Rampart.

McLaughlin also left the door slightly open regarding the possibility of bringing It’s Tricky back down from New York for the Rampart now that Awesome Feather is out. It’s Tricky, runner-up in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic, is currently scheduled to make her next start in the Grade 2 Distaff Handicap at Aqueduct on April 14.

“We do have flights available. She could come this way. We’ll keep an eye on it but right now I’m not sure,” McLaughlin said on Sunday.

The Grade 2 Gulfstream Oaks is shaping up to be a very competitive race with Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies runner-up Grace Hall expected to lead a field of eight or nine 3-year-old fillies likely to include Yara, the undefeated Zo Impressive, Hearts of Red, Emma’s Encore, Captivating Lass, and perhaps Italian Rose along with And Why Not.

Emma’s Encore, who has won each of her last two starts for trainer Allen Jerkens, worked seven furlongs in 1:29.60 after the renovation break here Monday.

Holiday Promise targets Lexington

Trainer Todd Pletcher said he was very pleased with the performances of Holiday Promise and Heavy Breathing, who finished second and third behind Went the Day Well in Saturday’s Grade 3 Vinery Racing Spiral at Turfway Park.

“Holiday Promise turned in a big effort and showed marked improvement over the synthetic surface.” said Pletcher. “He’ll run next in the Lexington. He’s not nominated for the Kentucky Derby and we decided Saturday not to supplement him.”

Pletcher said he thought Heavy Breathing turned in a game effort even though he suffered his first defeat in three starts.

“The fractions were a little too solid for Heavy Breathing but I thought he showed some guts to keep trying and fighting like he did,” said Pletcher. “We’ll bring him back down here for a short rest but we’re not ruling out running him back in something on April 14 or the Lexington.”

Pletcher was also delighted with the effort of In Lingerie, who dominated the Grade 3 Bourbonette by six lengths.

“The filly was impressive,” said Pletcher. “She benefitted from the slow opening quarter-mile but capitalized on it as well finishing full of run. The [Kentucky] Oaks is something we’re going to talk about.”

Pletcher also confirmed that he will start two horses, Brethren and either Soaring Stocks or Travelin Man, in the $65,000 Sir Shackleton here Saturday as well as Alma d’Oro in the Grade 3 Skip Away.

Jerome, Derby Trial possibilities for Right to Vote

Right to Vote, idle since finishing third behind Union Rags and Alpha in the Grade 1 Champagne, made a triumphant 3-year-old debut when he outgamed the previously undefeated Scaramagna to capture Saturday’s fourth race going 6 1/2 furlongs for trainer Eoin Harty.

“He’s really an odd horse mentally, still immature, and if you watched his race closely it looked like he ran in snatches on Saturday,” said Harty. “He was just a little further behind than we thought he might be after the Champagne so we decided to pass the Breeders’ Cup and give him some time off. I’ll probably look to bring him back at a mile either in the Jerome or the Derby Trial.”

◗ Takes the Gold, who has not run since finishing a tiring fourth in the Champagne, worked six furlongs in 1:15.27 here Monday, tiring through the latter stages after posting early splits of 34.41 and 47.03 seconds for the opening three-eighths and half-mile.