02/19/2008 1:00AM

Monba only runs hard when it counts

Monba, a lackluster worker, will make his 3-year-old debut in the Fountain of Youth.

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. - Monba likes to ease into the day. He would rather sleep in than work, but in the afternoon, the effort has been there, with two wins and an unlucky fourth-place finish in the CashCall Futurity to complete his 2007 campaign. That has put Monba on the short list of top contenders for the Kentucky Derby.

Sunday, he will make his 3-year-old debut in the Grade 2, $350,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park, but here at the Palm Beach Downs training center on Monday, he had his final work for that race, and looked like he would have rather been napping.

Monba worked five furlongs in company with the stakes-winning 3-year-old filly Game Face, and appeared second best. Both got a time of 1:01.20 from trainer Todd Pletcher, but Monba had to get one crack of the whip from exercise rider Patti Barry to try and keep pace with Game Face, who was going easier under exercise rider Kim Boniface.

Pletcher had warned before the work that Monba is "not what I would describe as an overzealous morning work horse," so his comments after the work might best be viewed in that context.

"He's never one to blow away anyone in the morning," Pletcher said. "The first time he ran, we thought he'd need a race, and he surprised us. He's not a morning glory. He did what he was supposed to do. He's where I want him to be for this weekend."

Palm Beach Downs is a private training center located about 35 miles northwest of Gulfstream. There is no association clocker here, so all works are recorded on the honor system by trainers stabled here.

"I've said it before - these are probably the most accurate workouts in the country," Pletcher said.

Monba was one of three Fountain of Youth prospects who drilled on Monday.

At Palm Meadows, Make the Point worked a half-mile in 48 seconds for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. At Gulfstream, Barclay Tagg-trained Elysium Fields covered five furlongs in 58.80, the best time of 24 at the distance.

In addition to those three, others expected to be entered on Thursday for the 1 1/8-mile Fountain of Youth are Adriano, Anak Nakal, Cool Coal Man, Court Vision, Golden Spikes, Kentucky Bear, and Success Fee.

Kentucky Bear was entered Monday in an allowance on Friday's card, but trainer Reade Baker said he was most likely to run in the Fountain of Youth.

- additional reporting by Mike Welsch