With the final major preview event in the books, the field for Gulfstream Park's $1 million Florida Derby (gr. I) on March 10 is starting to take shape.The top three finishers in last week's grade I Fountain of Youth Stakes – Songandaprayer, Outofthebox and City Zip – are expected to top a field of eight or nine in the 50th anniversary running of the Florida Derby, centerpiece of the winter meeting for 3-year-olds.But those prep warriors will have their work cut out. The mile and an eighth Florida Derby, a major steppingstone on the road to the Kentucky Derby and the classics beyond, is also expected to attract Monarchos, who is expected to make his3-year-old stakes debuts in the race.Other likely candidates include a D. Wayne Lukas shipper from California, Turnberry Isle, and a Todd Pletcher-trained local hero, Invisible Ink. Elliott Walden, who had Meetyouathebrig in the Fountain of Youth, may send a new shooter in the Florida Derby in Camden Park, who has made just three lifetime starts. Dream Run, an allowance winner at the meeting, remains a possibility.Songandaprayer won the Fountain of Youth by two and a half lengths with front-running tactics as Outofthebox, the tepid favorite in the mile and a sixteenth event, and City Zip raced not far off the pace. Last year's Florida Derby was won in similar style by Hal's Hope.Monarchos, trained by John Ward Jr., has been impressive in two allowance victories at Gulfstream this winter, including his last when he won by nearly five lengths in his first try around two turns. Ward also trains Hero's Tribute, who won an allowance on Fountain of Youth day and goes next in the Louisiana Derby (gr. II), and Holiday Thunder, who had a breathing problem and ran sixth in the Fountain. Turnberry Isle was a stakes winner in Ireland for trainer Aidan O'Brien, but ran sixth behind Macho Uno in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I). Lukas took over his training this winter and the colt finished fifth in his 3-year-old debut, more than 10 lengths behind Millennium Wind.
Invisible Ink has won twice around two turns this winter for trainer Todd Pletcher, and has looked good doing it. Pletcher has another candidate in You Know Who, but that colt will likely be sent to Fair Grounds.Camden Park broke his maiden on turf at Fair Grounds last month and was third in his Gulfstream debut here Feb. 17 when he was off to an awkward start. The colt will have to be nominated for the Florida Derby before Feb. 28 for a $3,000 nomination fee.
Dream Run, trained by Paul McGee, has never been beyond seven furlongs and no decision has been made whether to stretch him out for the Florida Derby.