Fountain of Youth Stakes winner Songandaprayer was on the track for a serious seven-furlong trial on Thursday. With jockey Edgar Prado in the saddle, Songandaprayer was clocked in 1:23 4/5 handily and is on schedule for his appearance in the $1 million Florida Derby for 3-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles here on March 10.
Songandaprayer went in fractions of :36 1/5 for three furlongs, :47 4/5 for the half-mile, :59 4/5 for five furlongs, 1:23 4/5 for seven furlongs and galloped out a mile in 1:38 3/5.
"He worked exceptionally well this morning," trainer John Dowd said. "Edgar was on him and was very happy with the way he handled it. That was his final major breeze. From now until the race it will just be maintenance work."
Songandaprayer went to the front at once and made every pole a winning one when he won the 1 1/16 miles Fountain of Youth Stakes here on Feb. 17. At the end of the 1 1/16 miles test he had carried Prado to victory. It was the third triumph in four career outings for the colt who was a $1 million purchase by former basketball star, Bob Hurley, and the D J Stable.
Songandaprayer won a maiden race at Monmouth Park and the Huntington Stakes at Aqueduct last year. This year he finished fifth in the Holy Bull Stakes here on Jan. 20 before his smashing win in the Fountain of Youth. "Our objective all along, ever since we came down here, was to run in the Florida Derby," Dowd said. "He's right on schedule and barring any unforeseen happenings that will be his next start."
Meanwhile, Carl Bowling, quarterback of City Zip's ownership team, confirmed that Corey Nakatani, a west coast based rider who is launching an eastern campaign this spring, will replace Jose Santos as the jockey aboard City Zip in the Florida Derby.
"It's time to make a couple of changes," said Bowling. "Jose is a good rider and he did a good job for us. He was a real gentleman about it when we told him, and I'm not saying he won't ride this horse again in the future. But we've got to try some different things. This is supposed to be one of the fastest horses in the country and I think he needs to be a little closer than three or four lengths off the front end.
"We're trying a couple of things differently," Bowling said. "We've been galloping the horse with blinkers on and now we're going to work him with blinkers the next time. We're checking out all the little possibilities to get this horse the best he can be for the Florida Derby."
Trainer Paul McGee has been undecided about whether to run his promising 3-year-old colt Dream Run in the Florida Derby or the $150,000 Swale Stakes at seven furlongs on the same day. It looked like the Florida Derby was winning out as of Thursday morning.
"I've been talking it over with the owner Jack (John D.) Murphy," McGee said via telephone from his barn at Turfway Park in Kentucky. "and we're almost certain it's going to be the Florida Derby. It looks like a good spot to take a shot at $1 million."
Dream Run ran twice last year. He finished second in a maiden race at Churchill Downs on June 17 then won a similar race at that track in his season finale on Nov. 24.
The bay colt has run twice here this year. He won his seasonal debut in a seven-furlong allowance race on Jan. 6. Then he was second, after steadying to avoid running up on another horse's heels, behind Hero's Tribute and ahead of A P Valentine in a tough seven-furlong allowance race on Feb. 17.
"Dream Run's been training well at Gulfstream," McGee said. "I'm shopping around for a jockey now. I understand Laffit Pincay may be riding a horse in the Swale at Gulfstream that day and if he is then I'll try and get him to ride my horse in the Florida Derby."
Another top 3-year-old who worked Thursday was Yonaguska, the winner of the Hutcheson Stakes on Jan. 27. The D. Wayne Lukas trained runner had the railbirds chattering when he was clocked in 58 4/5 for five furlongs, the best time of 25 horses working that distance.
According to Lukas, Yonaguska, a grade 1 winner, will make his next start in the seven furlong Swale Stakes which will be run on the undercard of the Florida Derby, Gulfstream Park's showcase event, on March 10.