Robert Evans’ Elysium Fields, runner-up in last month’s $350,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II), worked March 12 at Gulfstream Park in preparation for the $1 million Florida Derby (gr. I) Mar. 29.
Under exercise jockey Kristen Troxell, the son of El Prado worked five furlongs in a ‘bullet’ 59 seconds over Gulfstream’s fast main track.
“He looked good,” trainer Barclay Tagg said. “You try not to get too excited because this business can shatter you at any time, but I wouldn’t necessarily change places with anyone right now.”
After breaking his maiden impressively by eight lengths in Florida Jan. 19, Elysium Fields nearly ran down Robert LaPenta’s Cool Coal Man in the Fountain of Youth Feb. 24.
Elysium Fields has never finished worse than third and has been posting weekly drills before and after the Fountain of Youth, pleasing his trainer each time.
“He’s training really good,” Tagg continued. “He had his maintenance work last week, and for this one, I was looking for his normal effort, which he gave me. He usually puts in his works, around :59. He might not have the experience of some of the others, but he should move forward.”
Tagg also remains high on Charles Fipke’s Tale of Ekati despite the 3-year-old’s sixth-place finish in the March 15 Louisiana Derby (gr. II) at the Fair Grounds, in what was his 2008 debut.
“His head was sideways when the gates opened. It took away any chance he had,” Tagg said of the Tale of the Cat colt’s 6½-length loss to Pyro.
Tagg said Tale of Ekati would point toward the $750,000 Wood Memorial (gr. I) at Aqueduct April 5.
Another Florida Derby contender could be Jet Set Racing’s Tomcito, winner of the Derby Nacional (Per-I) Nov. 17. The son of Street Cry has been in steady training at Palm Meadows Training Center for conditioner Dante Zanelli Jr. His latest breeze came March 10, going a mile in 1:39 4/5.
“He’s making progress every work and moving forward,” Zanelli said. “We’re looking to stay here for the Florida Derby. If everything goes according to plan in the next few weeks, that would be the target. That is what we’re pushing for.”
The Kentucky-bred dominated all but one of his five starts in Peru, winning two Group I races against considerably more experienced, older Southern Hemisphere-breds. His only loss came in a troubled trip when second in the Peruvian Two Thousand Guineas (Per-I).
Zanelli had targeted either the U.A.E. Derby (UAE-II) on the Dubai World Cup undercard, or the Florida Derby, but they now plan to use that experience against the best in the U.S. to see if he’s a legitimate Triple Crown candidate.
“We could have tried to go to Dubai, but he wouldn’t have been 100 percent,” Zanelli said. “He has experience. The main thing has been getting him back into shape. We got him here, and he already had the experience from South America, but we wanted to give him some time to adjust to the weather and take it easy. We’ve been pushing him now the last (couple of months) and he’s been responding.”
Zanelli said Tomcito would breeze again next week. If the trainer doesn’t feel he’s at his peak level, the back-up plan would be the $150,000 Holy Bull Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream April 12, or the $750,000 Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) the same day at Keeneland.