Fountain of Youth winner Eskendereya will not run in the Florida Derby.<br><a target="blank" href="">Order This Photo</a>

Fountain of Youth winner Eskendereya will not run in the Florida Derby.
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Eskendereya Passing Fla. Derby; Awaits Wood

Eskendereya will pass the March 20 Florida Derby for the Wood Memorial.

Fountain of Youth (gr. II) winner Eskendereya will not run in the March 20 Florida Derby (gr. I) and will instead wait for the April 3 Wood Memorial (gr. I), owner Ahmed Zayat told The Blood-Horse.


“I wasn’t comfortable with the six weeks to the Kentucky Derby (gr. I), and more important, I want to give him a tough race to see what he’s made of," Zayat said. "I know it’s unorthodox to pass on a grade I race where we’d be the big favorite, but I’m trying to achieve a goal with him, which is getting to the Derby, and I want to have the right prep for him. If I want to get him to the real dance, let’s give him the toughest assignment and the right timing.


“Todd (Pletcher) was relieved with the decision, because he also has Rule running in the Florida Derby for WinStar and he always wants to separate his colts.”


Zayat said he thinks the Wood could be the most competitive of all the final Derby preps based on how it is shaping up.


“I think it could be the toughest race,” Zayat said. “I was very impressed with (Gotham Stakes winner) Awesome Act and I would like to face a horse like that who can come from off the pace. There will also be some other good horses in there—Jackson Bend is going and maybe Odysseus."


Eskendereya would have been the main attraction in the Florida Derby, coming off an 8 1/2-length victory in the Fountain of Youth. Although the son of Giant's Causeway  has not raced at Aqueduct, he began his career in New York, placing second in a maiden special weight on turf at Saratoga last summer and then scoring on the Belmont Park main track in the Pilgrim Stakes Oct. 4.


Jason Shandler contributed to this report.