Twelve Drawn For Intriguing Fla. Derby
by Jason Shandler
Date Posted: 3/26/2008 4:06:54 PM
Last Updated: 3/29/2008 11:27:47 AM

Big Brown drew post 12 and is the morning line favorite, at 3-1, for the Florida Derby (gr. I).
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Photo: Coglianese Photos
A full field of 12 was drawn for the March 29 Florida Derby (gr. I), which on paper has turned out to be the most intriguing prep race for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) this year.

The 57th running of the $1-million event will be contested on the Gulfstream Park main track, with the 3-year-olds going 1 1/8 miles. Post time is scheduled for 5:45 p.m. EDT and the race will be shown live on ESPN2. Scat Daddy took home top honors in 2007.

IEAH Stables and Paul Pompa Jr.’s Big Brown was installed as the  3-1 morning line favorite despite drawing post 12. The son of Boundary has won both of his career starts, including an impressive 12 3/4-length romp against allowance competition March 8 at Gulfstream. The Rick Dutrow Jr. trainee will be ridden by Kent Desormeaux.

Big Brown, who is out of the Nureyev mare Mien, is not the only Gulfstream allowance winner who has turned heads. Bea Oxenberg’s Hey Byrn will enter the Florida Derby off consecutive romps. The Put It Back colt made mincemeat out of allowance rivals Feb. 10, scoring by 14 1/2 lengths. He then came back March 2 and buried the field by six lengths under Edgar Prado in a 1 1/8-mile event.

Hey Byrn, the 5-1 third choice, drew post nine and will get Jose Lezcano for the first time. Edward Plesa Jr. trains.

Also entering off allowance wins are Face the Cat (8-1), Nistle’s Crunch (10-1), and B B Frank (20-1).

While those allowance winners are certainly talented, there are several Florida Derby contenders who have already proven themselves in graded stakes company. One of those is Robert Evans’ Elysium Fields, who was terrific when he made his stakes debut in the Feb. 24 Fountain of Youth (gr. II), battling eventual winner Cool Coal Man down the stretch until falling a half-length short.

Trained by Barclay Tagg, Elysium Fields entered the Fountain of Youth off an eight-length maiden score. The son of El Prado has never been off the board in five starts. Eibar Coa will get the return call on the 4-1 second choice, who will break from post eight.

Mount Joy Stables’ Smooth Air has also been tested against top competition and has succeeded. The Smooth Jazz colt is 3-1-2 from six career efforts, four of those coming in stakes company. He made his 3-year-old debut in the seven-furlong Hutcheson (gr. II) Jan. 5, winning by a length on the Gulfstream slop. Five weeks later Smooth Air was third in the Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, finishing 1 1/4 lengths behind Fierce Wind after making a mild bid down the stretch.

Regular rider Manoel Cruz will be in the irons, with Smooth Air breaking from post two. Bennie Stutts Jr. trains.

Minor Stables’ Fierce Wind has won his last three starts, including that Sam F. Davis triumph, where he stalked the pace under Cornelio Velasquez, took the lead at the top of the lane, and held off Big Truck by a half-length in the 1 1/16-mile test. A Nick Zito trainee, Fierce Wind broke his maiden by 10 1/4 lengths in December and won his 3-year-old debut in January in allowance competition, both in wire-to-wire fashion.

Fierce Wind turned in a bullet four-furlong work March 24 at Palm Meadows, stopping the clock in :46.80. The son of Dixie Union will again be ridden by Velasquez and after drawing the inside post, will likely be near the front end in the early going.

As if the Florida Derby did not have enough to challenge handicappers, Peruvian invader Tomcito adds a final piece to the unknown puzzle. Bred in Kentucky by Chesapeake Farm and Darley, Jet Set Racing Stable’s Tomcito has been terrific in all five of his career starts in Peru, winning four and finishing second in the other.

Tomcito, who is by Street Cry, out of the Eastern Echo mare Inside or Outside, has not started since Nov. 17, but it was an impressive effort. The Dante Zanelli Jr. trainee was much the best in the 1 1/2-mile Derby Nacional (Per-I), winning by 3 1/2 lengths. It was his second straight group I victory.

Jorge Chavez will get the call on Tomcito, who has been training steadily in Florida this winter. He will break from post four.

A final challenger to consider is Kinsman Stable and partners’ Majestic Warrior, who has been off the board in two starts since taking the Hopeful (gr. I) as a 2-year-old. After finishing sixth in the Champagne (gr. I) and suffering a foot injury, trainer Bill Mott shelved the A.P. Indy colt for more than five months. He was seventh in his sophomore debut, the March 8 Louisiana Derby (gr. II). Rene Douglas will get the mount in the Florida Derby.

$1,000,000 Florida Derby (gr. I, Race 10, 5:45 p.m.), 3-year-olds, 1 1/8 Miles
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Fierce Wind, 122, Cornelio H. Velasquez
2. Smooth Air, 122, Manoel R. Cruz
3. Da' Tara, 122, Joe Bravo
4. Tomcito, 122, Jorge F. Chavez
5. Cool Gator  122, Eddie Castro
6. Nistle's Crunch, 122, Julien R. Leparoux
7. B B Frank, 122, Javier Castellano
8. Elysium Fields, 122, Eibar Coa
9. Hey Byrn, 122, Jose Lezcano
10. Majestic Warrior, 122, Rene R. Douglas
11. Face the Cat, 122, John R. Velazquez
12. Big Brown, 122, Kent J. Desormeaux



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