03/19/2008 12:00AM

Matz could return to Florida Derby


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Trainer Michael Matz has left the door open to the possibility that Visionaire, winner of the Gotham Stakes earlier this month, could have his final Kentucky Derby prep in the Grade 1 Florida Derby on March 29.

Visionaire, an impressive allowance winner here earlier in the meet, rallied from last to catch Texas Wildcatter on the wire to capture the Grade 3 Gotham at Aqueduct on March 8.

"We'll see how he goes this week before making a decision on his next race," Matz said. "I'll work him over the weekend, and he'll tell me how much time he needs. If he needs more time then we'll wait for the Illinois Derby or the Blue Grass."

The Illinois Derby will be run April 5 at Hawthorne and the Blue Grass April 12 at Keeneland.

Matz certainly is not worried about the five-week gap between the Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby. His Barbaro won the 2006 Florida Derby as a stepping-stone to a memorable performance five weeks later in the Kentucky Derby.

Peruvian mystery horse

The mystery horse for this year's Florida Derby is Tomcito, a son of Street Cry who has yet to run a race in this country. Tomcito has captured 4 of his 5 starts, all at 2 in Peru, including the Group 1 Derby Nacional at 1 1/2 miles.

Tomcito had been training steadily for his 3-year-old debut at Palm Meadows until he shipped down the turnpike on Monday morning to work five furlongs here in 58.80 seconds with jockey Christian Pilares aboard. Tomcito then stuck around for the day, schooling in the paddock during the afternoon's fifth race.

"I was very pleased with the work, even though he went a little faster than I had originally planned," said trainer Dante Zanelli Jr. "He was supposed to have worked this morning at Palm Meadows but the water truck broke up there over the weekend. They couldn't water the track the last two mornings, and I didn't want to take any chances breezing him over a surface that might have been too dry."

Smooth Air impresses with work

Calder's strong freshman class of 2007 will be well represented in important races over the next several weeks. Among that group are likely Florida Derby participants Smooth Air and Hey Byrn.

Smooth Air, winner of the Grade 2 Hutcheson Stakes in his 3-year-old debut, is coming off a third-place finish behind Fierce Wind and Tampa Bay Derby winner Big Truck in the Sam F. Davis Stakes on Feb. 16. Trainer Bennie Stutts Jr. shipped Smooth Air over from Calder to work seven furlongs in an eye-catching 1:23.40 here Sunday morning under exercise rider Jodi Gelb.

"That was some work," Stutts said as Smooth Air was pulling up on the backstretch. "He hasn't run in a month and he needed to do something strong. I even treated him for the work like it was a race."

Stutts said having a horse like Smooth Air is like discovering the fountain of youth.

"I'm 70 years old and this horse is making me feel young again," Stutts said.

Wise Answer drills for Palm Beach

Wise Answer, the leader of the 2007 Calder juvenile division, will also be running on Florida Derby Day - only not in the main event but on the turf in the Grade 3 Palm Beach Stakes. He too made the short trip over from his home base on Sunday morning to work six furlongs on the turf in 1:22.80 under jockey Jorge Chavez. The slow time of the work was misleading since it came around the dogs, which were set out near the middle of the course.

"We decided the Palm Beach is a nicer spot for him now than the Florida Derby," trainer David Brownlee explained. "He ran one time on turf in the Tropical Park Derby, but he got boxed in and didn't have the best of trips."

Wise Answer finished seventh behind Cowboy Cal in the Tropical Park Derby on New Year's Day.

Golden Spikes targeting Illinois Derby

Golden Spikes, another Calder based 3-year-old, continues his preparations for a start in the Illinois Derby. Golden Spikes, fifth after setting the early pace in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth, worked a half-mile in 49.40 seconds over a dry and very cuppy track before galloping out five furlongs into a stiff headwind in 1:03.08 at Calder on Tuesday morning.

Trainer Marty Wolfson said he has secured the services of Hawthorne's leading jockey, Tim Thornton, to ride Golden Spikes in the Illinois Derby.

Napravnik wins with first local mount

Rosie Napravnik, an Eclipse Award finalist as an apprentice in 2006 and currently the leading rider at Laurel, made the most of her first opportunity to ride at Gulfstream Park, guiding Live by Request to an easy victory for trainer Peter Walder in Monday's third race.

Napravnik was accompanied to town by her agent, former trainer Bob Klesaris, who said the real purpose of the trip was to meet some of the Florida-based trainers planning to ship horses to Delaware Park for the 2008 meet. Napravnik will shift her tack to Delaware during the spring.

"I was just a passenger today, I had a ton of horse all the way," Napravnik said in the jockeys' room shortly after the race. "I'm looking forward to riding for Mr. Walder again. I've had a bunch of calls already from friends congratulating me for winning a race at Gulfstream Park. To me, it was just another day at the office."

Walder sounded like he'd be using Napravnik again in the future.

"That girl can ride," he said. "I was very impressed."