Zayat Stable’s Eskendereya, 8 1/2-length winner of the Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II), is among 92 3-year-olds nominated for the $750,000 Florida Derby (gr. I) to be run March 20 at Gulfstream Park, and trainer Todd Pletcher has confirmed it is the next logical start for his promising colt.
The 59th edition of the Florida Derby will highlight the biggest day of racing annually on the South Florida calendar and will also include renewals of the $150,000 Swale Stakes (gr. II) for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs, $200,000 Bonnie Miss Stakes (gr. II) for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/8 miles, $150,000 Rampart Stakes (gr. II) for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles, and $100,000 Appleton Stakes (gr. IIIT) for 3-year-olds and up on turf.
Eskendereya’s tour de force victory in the Fountain of Youth under regular rider John Velazquez sent him soaring in most Top 10 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) contender rankings nationwide and will be a solid favorite if he goes to the post. The son of Giant's Causeway is one of more than a dozen of the nominees from the Pletcher arsenal and had won a one-mile allowance over the track prior to the Fountain of Youth.
In addition to Eskendereya, the possible field for the Florida Derby currently includes IEAH Stables and partners’ Radiohead, Flying Zee Stables and partners’ Pulsion, Robert LaPenta’s Ice Box , Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Pleasant Prince, Donald Dizney’s First Dude , and Kuehne Stable’s Game On Dude.
The Bonnie Miss is the filly companion event to the Florida Derby that often yields leading contenders for the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I). Leading prospects include IEAH Stable’s Amen Hallelujah and Michael Imperio’s impressive allowance winner Christine Daae, trained by Patrick Biancone.
Two contenders listed for the Swale include Paul Pompa, Jr.’s D' Funnybone , winner of the Saratoga Special (gr. II) and Futurity Stakes (gr. II) at Belmont Park last year, and the Hutcheson Stakes (gr. II) over the track and distance earlier this meet for trainer Rick Dutrow; and Edward P. Evans’ A Little Warm, winner of the Spectacular Bid Stakes in early January and runner-up in the Hutcheson for trainer Anthony Dutrow.