Rule still gives Pletcher a strong hand
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Trainer Todd Pletcher showed off the strength of his Kentucky Derby hand in the days leading up to Saturday's $750,000 Florida Derby when he reshuffled the deck and withdrew one of his aces yet still had another left to play in the marquee event of the Gulfstream Park meeting.

The Grade 1 Florida Derby highlights a 12-race program that includes four other graded stakes. Post time for the Florida Derby is set at 6:20 p.m. Eastern with the race to be shown live during a half-hour broadcast beginning at 6 p.m. on HRTV. It also will be streamed live on NTRA.com.

Pletcher had planned on running his leading Kentucky Derby candidate Eskendereya in the Florida Derby until Tuesday, when owner Ahmad Zayat announced Eskendereya would bypass the race and instead be pointed to the Wood Memorial in New York two weeks later. But despite the late-minute decision to keep Eskendereya in the barn, Pletcher will still send out the Florida Derby favorite, with Rule expected to be a solid choice to defeat 10 other 3-year-olds. Only one of his opponents, Radiohead, has won anything beyond an entry-level allowance race.

Rule, a son of Roman Ruler owned by the WinStar Farm, will bring a four-race win streak into the 1 1/8-mile Florida Derby. The streak includes victories in the Grade 3 Delta Jackpot in his 2-year-old finale and the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs to open his 3-year-old campaign. All four of those tallies have come in wire-to-wire fashion. The Florida Derby will be Rule's first start beyond 1 1/16 miles.

"Although we'd been strongly considering this race for Eskendereya, this horse was also prepared the entire time exactly as if he was running in the Florida Derby," said Pletcher. "We wouldn't have done one thing differently."

Pletcher obviously expects Rule to be a forward factor on Saturday but not necessarily on the lead.

"Too much is being made of the fact that he's one dimensional. He's really not," said Pletcher. "We'll continue to allow the horse to run the way he wants to run, and if he's on the lead again, fine. We're not going to take away what's easy for him, and going a mile and one-eighth at Gulfstream Park you've got to establish position going into that first turn."

Even though Rule has more than enough graded earnings to qualify for the Kentucky Derby, Pletcher said the Florida Derby is not just a prep toward that goal.

"In our eyes this is a Grade 1, stallion-making race," said Pletcher. "We're in here to win. We've got six weeks to recover if he has a particularly hard race."

Radiohead is the only other member of the field with more than two victories and enough graded money in the bank to qualify for the Kentucky Derby. A son of Johannesburg who was purchased privately by the IEAH Stables Pegasus Holding Group prior to his seventh-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, Radiohead won the Group 2 Norfolk and finished second in the Group 1 Middle Park in his native England at 2. Both of those races came on turf. He was turned over to trainer Rick Dutrow following the Breeders' Cup.

Radiohead, who will break from post 11 on Saturday, rallied to an easy 3 1/4-length victory over his Grade 1-winning stablemate Homeboykris making his 3-year-old and dirt debut here on Feb. 27.

"The key for him will be the break," said Dutrow. "If he breaks good he should have position and we'll be okay. If not then he could get hung up wide. All we want is to have position without having to ask him to get there. If he breaks well, I'd be very disappointed if he doesn't finish one-two-three."

Dutrow said that even though Radiohead is all but in the Kentucky Derby field, he still needs to see another big effort Saturday to punch his ticket into the big dance.

"This will be a good test for him," said Dutrow. "He proved he was a good one in Europe and that he could handle the dirt in his first start over here. But we still need him to run a credible race on Saturday and show us he belongs in the Derby."

Beyond Rule and Radiohead, the Florida Derby field consists of nine much less accomplished but very promising 3-year-olds hoping to take a giant step forward on Saturday.

"Todd's is the horse to beat and after that it's a matter of who will improve the most on this particular day," said Patrick Biancone, whose Pulsion is among that group. "It's not just a matter of earning enough graded money to get into the Kentucky Derby. These horses also need to show they are both talented and mature enough to belong at that level at this particular time. All I'm hoping for is a clean trip and no excuses for my horse. Then we'll find out."

Pulsion, who showed a flash of brilliance when second behind Lookin At Lucky in the Grade 2 Norfolk at 2, finished 11th after getting knocked around early in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and sixth behind Eskendereya after some early trouble in the Fountain of Youth.

Ice Box and Soaring Empire are both first-level allowance winners. Ice Box finished fifth following a slow start and wide trip in the Fountain of Youth, while Soaring Empire overcame early trouble to capture a first-level allowance race going seven furlongs here last month.

First Dude has won just once in four starts, but was a very game second behind his nemesis Fly Down in a nine-furlong allowance race on Feb. 21.

Completing the field are Lentenor - who is the brother of 2006 Florida Derby winner Barbaro - Pleasant Prince, Game on Dude, Miner's Reserve, and Best Actor.
Classy Paynter colt shines in Oaklawn Park maiden score title=
Paynter

Classy Paynter colt shines in Oaklawn Park maiden score

Pryor was all business as he drew off to an impressive 5 3/4-length maiden special weight win on Presidents' Day at Oaklawn Park...

[read more]

Paynter fillies double up for maiden victories title=
Paynter

Paynter fillies double up for maiden victories

Paynter has risen to the #4 spot on the active North American Second-Crop Sire list after a pair of fillies by the young WinStar stallion broke their maidens at Fair Grounds and Laurel Park.

[read more]

Promising Paynter 3YO shines in Santa Anita Park debut title=
Paynter

Promising Paynter 3YO shines in Santa Anita Park debut

Westrock Stables' homebred Ike overcame a four-wide trip to score by a half-length in a Feb. 11 Santa Anita Park maiden special weight for 3-year-olds...

[read more]

Tiznow’s Red Ruby jumps onto Oaks Trail in big way title=

Tiznow’s Red Ruby jumps onto Oaks Trail in big way

Red Ruby, the fast-rising 3-year-old filly by Tiznow, threw her name into the 2018 Kentucky Oaks picture on Jan. 10th after her second straight daylight victory, this one coming in her stakes debut in the $125,000 Martha Washington S. at Oaklawn...

[read more]

Tiznow has top yearling at Fasig-Tipton Winter Sale title=
Tiznow

Tiznow has top yearling at Fasig-Tipton Winter Sale

Glenn Brok made the winning bid of $260,000 for a Tiznow colt at the Feb. 5-6 Fasig-Tipton Winter Mixed Sale in Kentucky

[read more]

Check Out the WinStar Farm Super Bowl Commercial

Check Out the WinStar Farm Super Bowl Commercial

[read more]

Champion Roy H kicks off 2018 with big win in Palos Verdes S. (G2) title=
More Than Ready

Champion Roy H kicks off 2018 with big win in Palos Verdes S. (G2)

More Than Ready's 2017 Eclipse Champion Sprinter Roy H started 2018 in style with an easy 3 1/2-length win in the $200,000 Palos Verdes S. (G2) Feb. 3 at Santa Anita Park...

[read more]

Speightstown's Strike Power rules in the Swale S. (G3) title=
Speightstown

Speightstown's Strike Power rules in the Swale S. (G3)

Strike Power backed up his superlative Dec. 23 maiden win with another top-notch performance in Saturday's $200,000 Swale S. (G3) at Gulfstream Park...

[read more]

Audible captures Holy Bull S. (G2) in first stakes start title=

Audible captures Holy Bull S. (G2) in first stakes start

Audible drew off powerfully in the final quarter-mile of Saturday's $350,000 Holy Bull S. (G3) to win the 1 1/16-mile contest by 5 1/2-lengths...

[read more]

Overanalyze filly romps by double-digits at Fair Grounds title=
Overanalyze

Overanalyze filly romps by double-digits at Fair Grounds

Saints' Girl, making her second lifetime start, blasted to a 13 1/4-length maiden special weight score Jan. 28 at Fair Grounds...

[read more]