03/23/2010 11:00PM

Odysseus will get another Derby prep


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Trainer Tom Albertrani has confirmed that the Tampa Bay Derby winner, Odysseus, will have one final prep before the Kentucky Derby, with the choices remaining either the Blue Grass or Arkansas Derby.

"If all is well he'll get to run one more time before the Derby, although at the moment we still haven't made a definite decision where it will be," Albertrani said on Tuesday. "We're probably going to work him either Thursday or Friday, see how he is, and then make a choice between the Blue Grass or Arkansas Derby. We've still got another two weeks before we really have to decide. He'll ship on the 5th no matter where he goes, although I'd say by this time next week we should know which direction we're heading."

Odysseus fought back from seemingly certain defeat at the quarter pole to win the by a nose over Schoolyard Dreams. The $180,000 in graded earnings all but assured Odysseus a spot in the Kentucky Derby, leaving Albertrani the decision of whether to give him another race or train him the seven weeks up to the Derby.

One factor Albertrani must consider when it comes to Odysseus's final Derby prep would be that the Blue Grass is run over a synthetic surface at Keeneland, while the Arkansas Derby is decided over dirt at Oaklawn Park. Odysseus has never started over a synthetic racetrack.

"I'm not that concerned about him running over the synthetic, and the cooler climate in Kentucky might benefit him more," said Albertrani. "The good thing is that we're not in a situation where we need to win. It's just a matter of getting a little added experience and another race into him, closer than seven weeks."

Big day saw handle increase

After taking considerable criticism for moving its marquee race, the Florida Derby, from March 27 to March 20, Gulfstream management was at least partially vindicated last Saturday when more than $21 million was wagered on the 12-race Florida Derby card. But the track's president, Ken Dunn, said it won't be until after the results of this year's Kentucky Derby are in before a total and accurate assessment of the somewhat controversial decision can be made.

"Last Saturday was great. It was everything I'd hoped for," said Dunn. "We were up 24 percent ontrack over Florida Derby day the last two years and 14 percent overall from 2009. But it still remains to be seen how the horses that come out of this Florida Derby to run in the Kentucky Derby represent the race."

Ice Box, Pleasant Prince, and Rule, the first three finishers in the Grade 1 Florida Derby, are all expected to run back in the Kentucky Derby, while the fifth- and sixth-place finishers, First Dude and Pulsion, are likely to get one more chance to qualify for a slot in the starting gate for the main event at Churchill Downs on May 1. Eskendereya, the pro-tem leader of the 3-year-old division, was taken out of consideration for the Florida Derby by his connections less than 24 hours before entry time.

"A credible showing by the horses coming out of the Florida Derby in the Kentucky Derby could influence our decision making regarding the scheduling of next year's race," said Dunn. "The first part of our decision worked out. We won't know about the second until after the Derby."