03/19/2008 12:00AM

Zito: War Pass 'looked good' in gallop


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - War Pass returned to the track on Wednesday for the first time since his baffling last-place performance in Saturday's Grade 3 Tampa Bay Derby. War Pass suffered his first career defeat, as the 1-20 favorite, in that race.

Trainer Nick Zito said War Pass galloped an easy mile at the Palm Meadows training center on Wednesday morning and that all appears well with his Eclipse Award winner at this time.

"He looked good out there this morning," said Zito. "We took all the tests we could after the race on Saturday and everything is negative. Hopefully, we'll just be able to put a line through that one and move on to the next race."

If all goes well the next several weeks War Pass will have his final Kentucky Derby prep in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 5, Zito said.

"We'll keep going forward from here, plan a work and see how things are going," Zito said. "All we can do at this point is take things one step at a time."

Zito also said Wednesday that another of his Kentucky Derby hopefuls, Fierce Wind, has been sold privately but will remain in his barn and run as scheduled in the Grade 1 Florida Derby on March 29.

Fierce Wind was purchased by Halsey Minor from Four Roses Thoroughbreds. Minor previously had purchased the multiple Grade 1 winner Dream Rush shortly after her disappointing performance in the 2007 Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint. Dream Rush is in training at Palm Meadows with Rick Violette.

Fierce Wind, who defeated Tampa Bay Derby winner Big Truck in the Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs four weeks earlier, worked four furlongs in 49 seconds at Palm Meadows on Tuesday.

Big Brown tunes up for Florida Derby

Big Brown, 2 for 2 and the newest sensation in the 3-year-old division, tuned up for his biggest test to date by working five furlongs in 1:00.40 under jockey Kent Desormeaux at Palm Meadows on Wednesday. Big Brown, who is unbeaten and untested in two starts, could go off as the favorite in the Florida Derby.

"He went good. Very good," said trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. "He'll have one more work before the Florida Derby. Right now it's scheduled for March 25."

Dutrow understands all the excitement Big Brown has created.

"I can't blame people for thinking highly of this horse after watching him run," he said . "And I couldn't be happier with the way he's doing right now."

Dutrow said it will take another big performance by Big Brown to punch his ticket to the Kentucky Derby.

"Obviously, he's going to have to earn some graded money to get into the Kentucky Derby," said Dutrow. "But I'd also like him to win this race and look like a Derby horse doing it."

Florida Derby comes too soon

Famous Patriot will skip the Florida Derby and instead await the 1 3/16-mile Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream on April 12. Famous Patriot won his maiden impressively when stretching out to 1 1/8 miles for the first time in his last start.

"He's had three hard races in a short span and the Florida Derby would just be pushing it a little bit too much at this time," said Tim Hills, who trains Famous Patriot for Dana Reiss' Patriot Stable.

* Dutrow also worked his Breeders' Cup Mile winner Kip Deville at Palm Meadows on Wednesday. Kip Deville, who is scheduled to make his 2008 debut next month in the Maker's Mark Mile at Keeneland, worked five furlongs in 1:02.