In a surprise move, Classic Contenders Stable on Thursday plunked down the $3,000 fee to nominate Puck, a 3-year-old colt who has won or placed in all four career starts, to the March 16, $1-million Florida Derby.
Trainer Bill White acknowledged that the Florida Derby would seem an ambitious goal for the son of Mr. Greeley and that an upcoming workout would determine the colt's status for the grade I race at Gulfstream Park.
"We're looking seriously at it," White said Thursday after Puck was entered on the final day to make regular nominations. (Supplementary nominations may be made to the Florida Derby by March 13 on payment of $25,000). "The way I look at it, he's improving steadily, and some of those other colts he ran against last time might have already reached their peak. If that is true, it would place our colt right in the thick of things. I would say we are getting ready to put a major work into him in the next couple of days, and depending how he comes out of it, we'll make a more definite decision on whether to run in there or not."
In his most recent start, Puck finished in a dead heat with Doc Wild for second in a conditioned allowance race won by Florida Derby contender Nokoma. Previous to that start, Puck broke his maiden at Gulfstream Park at the Florida Derby distance of 1 1/8 miles. "I think a mile and an eighth is a perfect distance for him and he was going against some very seasoned horses in that last start," White said. "We thought he ran a super race last time, and based on that effort against some of the prime Florida Derby candidates, we decided to go ahead and nominate him."
If Puck makes the starting gate in the Florida Derby, he would face a field of seven or eight other 3-year-olds that also includes Fountain of Youth Stakes winner Booklet, who has won six of seven career starts; Harlan's Holiday, runner-up to Booklet in both the Holy Bull Stakes and the Fountain of Youth; multiple allowance race winners High Star and Personal Reward; and Blue Burner, who races for George Steinbrenner III's Kinsman Stable, among others.
In another Florida Derby development, trainer Graham Motion said Grey Beard had developed a minor problem that would preclude his participation in the Kentucky Derby prep race. "We hadn't originally nominated him for the Florida Derby and a minor problem has developed," Motion said. "He won't be running in the race."