01/05/2010 1:00AM

Thank U Philippe runs into Eskendereya


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Thank U Philippe closed out his 2-year-old campaign with back-to-back second-place finishes to horses regarded among the top Kentucky Derby prospects in the country. But despite such an impressive resume, Thank U Philippe is not likely to be favored when he drops back into entry-level allowance company for his 3-year-old debut Thursday.

Welcome to winter racing at Gulfstream Park.

Thank U Philippe will have to play second fiddle, at least from a wagering standpoint, to Eskendereya who is almost sure to be favored in Thursday's $48,000 allowance feature at Gulfstream, coming off a troubled ninth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Thurdsay's main event drew a full field of 12 3-year-olds, plus three also-eligibles, and will be decided at one mile.

Eskendereya, a son of Giant's Causeway, experienced just about every surface possible in his three starts at 2. He began his career finishing second over the turf at Saratoga, won his maiden by seven lengths over a good main track in Belmont's Pilgrim Stakes, and closed out the abbreviated campaign over the Pro-Ride at Santa Anita in the BC Juvenile.

"We threw a lot at him in a short period of time," trainer Todd Pletcher said. "We placed him pretty aggressively in the Juvenile, mainly because he'd been training so well, but from a seasoning standpoint he took the worst of it and then wound up having a nightmarish trip into the first turn and lost all chance."

Pletcher's plans to run Eskendereya one more time at 2 in the CashCall Futurity had to be canceled when the colt came down with a temperature prior to the race.

"Once we missed the CashCall, we just decided to bring him this way and prepare him here," Pletcher said. "I would have preferred if this race were around two turns at a mile and one eighth, but he's training well and we've got to get him started."

Thank U Philippe won just once in seven tries at 2 but also finished second to Jackson Bend in Calder's In Reality and a distant second behind Buddy's Saint in the Grade 2 Nashua. He also was runner-up to Homeboykris, another top Derby prospect, in a maiden race at Calder early last summer.

Ten members of Thursday's lineup enter the race off a maiden win, including Bank the Eight, Launch N Relaunch, Middle of the Nite, and Remand.