03/27/2007 11:00PM

Surprise Florida Derby entry: Birdbirdistheword


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - As post position draws go, Wednesday's pill pull for Saturday's Grade 1, $1 million Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park was relatively uneventful as favorites Scat Daddy and Stormello drew posts 3 and 5, respectively, in a field of nine 3-year-olds.

The only surprises came before the draw itself when it was learned that trainer Ken McPeek would run Birdbirdistheword instead of Bold Start in the Florida Derby, and that Hal's My Hope would not be entered due to a cough he contracted earlier in the week.

"I just think the way the race sets up Birdbirdistheword is a better fit," said McPeek. "It looks like there is plenty of speed in there, and Birdbird will be closing."

Birdbirdistheword will break from the outside in post 9 under jockey Manoel Cruz.

Scat Daddy wore down a game Stormello to win the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth by a nose, and as a result was made the 5-2 morning line favorite by track oddsmaker Chuck Streva.

Stormello is the second choice at 3-1. California invader Notional, already a two-time graded stakes winner, drew the rail and is the third choice at 4-1.

One trainer smiling at the draw was Mike Gorham after his runner, Adore the Gold, got post 4 for the 1 1/8-mile race.

Adore the Gold broke from post 9 in the Fountain of Youth, a distinct disadvantage at Gulfstream Park due to the short run to the clubhouse turn. Adore the Gold pressed Stormello on the pace for nearly the entire 1 1/8 miles and finished a length behind Scat Daddy in fourth.

"Obviously, this was a much better draw for us," said Gorham. "Now we won't have to use our speed as much and can sit behind the leaders if we want."

Trainer Michael Matz, who won the 2006 Florida Derby with Barbaro en route to the colt's sensational victory in the Kentucky Derby, will saddle the lightly raced Chelokee, who breaks from post 6 under new rider Ramon Dominguez.

Johannesburg Star, the longest price in Streva's morning line at 30-1, was the only Florida Derby contender to work on Wednesday, blowing out three furlongs in 35 seconds at Gulfstream Park.

A flight scheduled to bring Stormello and Notional here from Southern California on Tuesday was postponed, according to track officials. The horses were expected to arrive Thursday morning on a flight slated to depart the West Coast at 9 p.m. Pacific on Wednesday.