Winner of the track's Fountain of Youth (gr. II) with a breathtaking late run to overcome a wide trip and defeat Stormello by a nose March 3, there was no need for those kind of heroics Saturday from jockey Edgar Prado, who won his sixth race on the Gulfstream card in the Florida Derby.
This time the California invader Stormello, who set a sizzling pace (:23, :46 3/5, 1:10 4/5) under Victor Espinoza, was cooked by the time he led the field into the stretch. Scat Daddy, never far back while stalking the leader three wide, challenged Stormello, who fought back gamely along the inside but could not match strides. Notional, a second Golden State challenger, slowly gained through the stretch after moving into contention on the final turn, but came up 1 1/4 lengths short of Scat Daddy, who completed the 1 1/8-mile distance in a solid 1:49. Chelokee, who was squeezed off along the inside by Stormello while rallying in the lane for Ramon Dominguez, gathered himself to gain the show spot over Stormello, three quarters of a length behind the runner-up.
"There was a good pace in the race and I was able to sit outside, right behind the leaders," Prado said. "When I called on him, he came running. He was looking around a little today, but nobody would have beaten him today.”
Scat Daddy is not expected to race again until the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) on May 5, and will try to duplicate Barbaro's feat of sweeping the Florida and Kentucky Derbys.
Owned by the partnership of Jim Scatuorchio and Michael Tabor and trained by Todd Pletcher, Scat Daddy, the son of Johannesburg-Love Style, by Mr. Prospector, captured last year's Champagne (gr. I) and Sanford Stakes (gr. II) before running fourth, 15 lengths behind Street Sense in the Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I). The dark bay colt ran third in Gulfstream's one-mile Holy Bull (gr. III) Feb. 3 to begin his 3-year-old campaign before returning to capture the nine-furlong FOY one month later. He boasts a 5-1-1 record in eight starts and improved his earnings to $1,334,300 with Saturday's winning purse of $600,000.
“This is very special because he is a son of Johannesburg," said Tabor, who co-owned the sire. "He was very special to us and this one was obviously very special as well. Now it’s on to Kentucky. We know the five weeks leading up to it can work after last year (with Barbaro), and we look forward to it.”
With regular rider John Velazquez in Dubai with Pletcher, Prado rode Scat Daddy for the first time. Though Pletcher was blanked during the World Cup meet, he won five races on the Gulfstream card.
“It was a little disappointing (for the stable) in Dubai, but this more than makes up for it," said Tristan Barry, Pletcher's assistant. "It really went exactly as we planned. When they broke from the gate, Edgar was able to hold him off the speed, and from there, the race was his.”
Alex Wend bred the winner, a $250,000 Keeneland yearling buy, in Kentucky.
Scat Daddy paid $6.40, $3.40 and $2.80.
Notional, who won the Risen Star (gr. III) at Fair Grounds and the San Rafael (gr. II) in powerful fashion in his last two starts for trainer Doug O'Neill, returned $4.20 and $3, completing a $21.40 exacta.
“I thought he ran dynamite," O'Neill said. "These kind of races, with Scat Daddy and Stormello asnd Chelokee, it’s a great field of horses. We were just outrun by Scat Daddy. You could run this race 10 times, and have four or five different winners. I hope he comes out of it in good shape, and we get a rematch with Scat Daddy and the others on the first Saturday in May.”
Chelokee, making his stakes debut for trainer Michael Matz -- winner of last year's Florida Derby with Barbaro -- was $3.80 to show.
“I don’t think third will be good enough to qualify (for the Kentucky Derby) on the graded earnings," Matz said. "We know we’re right on the bubble. Ramon said he was on the best horse. We’ll just have to wait and see. If we don’t happen to make it into the Derby, he will be heard from again.”
Bill Currin, breeder, co-owner and trainer of Stormello, said his colt would proceed to the Kentucky Derby.
“We had talked about this and, and Victor’s as good a rider as you can have, but this is the kind of horse that you’ve got to let him go. He’s hot-blooded, and you don’t go teaching things at this point, but we’re going on (Derby).”
Boogie Boggs, Imawildandcrazyguy, Birdbirdistheword and Adore the Gold completed the order. Johannesburg Star gave way on the turn and was eased in the stretch.
The Florida Derby winner has gone on to take the Kentucky Derby three times in the past 12 years. Before Barbaro's win last year, Monarchos did it in 2001 and Thunder Gulch in 1995.