Trainer Rick Hiles had Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. I) third-place finisher Midway Cat on the Gulfstream track on Wednesday morning for his final work before Saturday's $1 million Florida Derby. With exercise rider Kenny Martin up, the son of Sir Cat broke off from the half-mile pole and moved smartly around to the finish line, keeping well clear of horses working behind. Hiles timed the four-furlongs in 51 seconds, while the official time was 50 4/5. "He did well," Hiles said. "He's plenty sharp so we didn't need to put any more speed into him. He would have gone a lot faster if he had another horse to run at but we weren't looking for that." The trainer, who owns the colt in partnership, indicated that Midway Cat's aggressiveness has cost him on a couple of occasions. Most recently he notes the Fountain of Youth (gr. I) in which Midway Cat rankly chased front-running winner Trust N Luck into the first turn before settling. "Jorge (jockey Chavez) tried to get him to relax but he's a freak fighter when another horse runs at him," said Hiles. "He's just like his half-brother in that way." The half-brother the trainer referred to is Midway Magistrate, a colt that Hiles trained to a third-place finish--behind multiple stakes winners Dancing Guy and Yankee Victor--in Gulfstream's 2000 Crème Fraiche Stakes (gr. III). Overall, that colt earned over $440,000. "This one has more talent and is a lot smarter," Hiles said of Midway Cat. Still, the trainer feels that the colt has some learning to do. In addition to difficulty in relaxing behind horses, Hiles said that Midway Cat has a tendency to pull himself up and wait for horses once he gets clear. He pointed to Midway Cat's second-place finish in an allowance race at Churchill Downs last November. Midway Cat made the lead near the sixteenth pole and slowed down before coming on again to miss by a half-length. That race was immediately followed by the one Hiles feels was his best, a 6 1/4 -length allowance romp in his first try over the Gulfstream surface in January. "That's the kind of race we expect to see on Saturday," Hiles said. "When he puts it all together like that he can do anything." Timing is Everything for Senor Swinger
Another contender for the Florida Derby who was on the track on Wednesday morning was Senor Swinger. The son of 2002 leading sire El Prado will put his undefeated record on the line in Saturday's grade I race, the centerpiece of the Gulfstream Park meet. "The track was a little wet from the rains we've had but I was generally pleased," trainer Mickey Goldfine said after the colt recorded a three-furlong breeze in :40 3/5. Goldfine timed him jogging out a half-mile in :53 2/5 and added, "If the track was firmer he would have gone faster." Exercise rider Derek Sturniolo was aboard for the work, which came just as the track re-opened for training after the second harrowing break. "Looks like he came back without breaking a sweat," Sturniolo shouted to the trainer as he dismounted. Senor Swinger broke his maiden at first asking in December and was immediately sent to Gulfstream afterwards. He was being pointed to a Jan. 18 allowance test, a race that Goldfine said would have served as a prep for the Feb. 15 Fountain of Youth Stakes, when he developed a respiratory infection. As a result, the physically imposing roan skipped that race and did not make his second start until Jan. 31 when he dead-heated for the win with the highly regarded Ten Cents a Shine."That set us back because it was too close to come back in two weeks for the Fountain of Youth and we had to go right into this race without another one," he said. As a result, Senor Swinger will head into the Florida Derby as the most lightly-raced horse in the race, with only two starts under his belt. "He's still a little green - he's still learning something every day," said Goldfine. He gives as an example his last outing. "Edgar (jockey Prado) said he was really surprised when he got to the lead and saw no more horses in front of him," Goldfine said with a laugh. "You won't see him doing that again." A Busy Day for Bobby Frankel
Wednesday was a busy day for Bobby Frankel. The Brooklyn native was scheduled to star in a commercial for Daily Racing Form at 12:30 and then visit Palm Meadows, Magna Entertainment Corp.'s Thoroughbred training center in nearby Boynton Beach. But before that, Frankel started his day watching Empire Maker and Midas Eyes, get a feel for the Gulfstream surface. "They both just jogged today to shake off the rust from the flight," the trainer said, noting that both 3-year-old colts endured a seven-hour plane flight from their base at Hollywood Park on Tuesday. "They are both plenty fit--they breezed five-furlongs in company in 1:01 4/5 on Monday so they don't need to do much here. I'll have them both canter into the race." Empire Maker, who the trainer considers the best Triple Crown contender in his barn, is the morning-line favorite for Saturday's Florida Derby. On the same day, Florida-bred Midas Eyes will make his first start for Frankel in the seven-furlong, $150,000 Swale Stakes (gr. III).Following his second career start, a handy eight-length maiden win across town at Calder, Frankel acquired Midas Eyes on behalf of main client Edmund Gann. The trainer describes the circumstances. "When he ran second in his first race we were very interested in the winner, Super Fuse, but they weren't willing to sell him," he recalls. "We were impressed by how well Midas Eyes kept after him, though, and we were able to strike a deal after he ran the next time." That came on Aug. 17, and Midas Eyes has spent the past seven months in Frankel's barn, under the tutelage of a master. "He just wasn't moving the way I liked and we had a lot of money into him, so we decided to wait," said Frankel. "With all the speed he's got I expect a big race in the Swale."