(from Gulfstream Park)
Ice Box drilled a bullet half-mile in :47 1/5 at Palm Meadows for trainer Nick Zito March 13 as he tunes up for the $750,000 Florida Derby (gr. I) at Gulfstream Park.
Robert LaPenta’s 3-year-old son of 1997 Florida Derby runner-up Pulpit turned in the best of 30 workouts at the distance during the morning. He bids to improve on his fifth-place finish last out in the Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) in the 1 1/8-mile event on March 20.
Ice Box was off slowly in the Feb. 20 Fountain of Youth and never menaced while beaten 12 lengths by Eskendereya, who defeated the Zito-trained Jackson Bend by 8 1/2 lengths. Ice Box had raced much closer to the pace when winning a 1 1/8-mile allowance test over the track on Jan. 18 in his 3-year-old debut.
“He’s an up and coming horse,” said Zito of the $125,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase. “He likes the surface and won a ‘one other than’ (allowance) and was very impressive doing it. Every time you win an allowance race (at Gulfstream) you know you’re racing with the best horses in the country.
“In regards to the Fountain of Youth, he finished a respectable fifth. He made a good move. I think he’s going to be a lot closer that people think (early in the Florida Derby). I know we have to beat Eskendereya.”
Zito had another promising 3-year-old on the Palm Meadows work tab. Richard Pell’s Fly Down was timed a sharp half-mile in 48 flat. The chestnut son of Mineshaft has won two of his last three career starts, most recently a 1 1/8 miles allowance over the Gulfstream track on Feb. 21 in his 3-year-old debut. He is eligible for the Florida Derby.
Zayat Stable’s Eskendereya leads the list of probable starters for the 59th edition of the Florida Derby. Others under consideration include Flying Zee Stables and partners’ Pulsion, IEAH Stables and partners’ Radiohead, WinStar Farm’s Rule, Ol Memorial Stables and C.E. Glasscock’s Soaring Empire , Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Pleasant Prince, Donald Dizney’s First Dude , and Kuehne Stable’s Game On Dude.