Horse Racing

Rule leads an impressive field in Saturday's Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park

Rule, who already has taken big steps on the Kentucky Derby trail, will be an exception as well as the heavy favorite in Saturday's $750,000 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park.

Rule, trained by Todd Pletcher, is the only horse in the Grade 1 stakes with a victory in a U.S. stakes race. He also is the only Florida Derby entrant who has not raced at Gulfstream this year.

His 10 rivals in the 1-mile race have won either an allowance or maiden race, or finished fourth or worse in a stakes race at Gulfstream.

Several prominent 3-year-olds from this year' Gulfstream meet are not in the Florida Derby because owners and trainers want to run them in stakes closer to the May 1 Kentucky Derby.

That makes the Florida Derby a race without multiple stars.

But it has several horses with well-known human connections, as well as potential.

Lentenor, a full brother of the late Barbaro, is prominent on that list, which includes Radiohead and Miner's Reserve. Those horses and First Dude could challenge Rule for the lead.

The Florida Derby is Saturday's 11th race, with post time at 6:20 p.m. Gulfstream's 12-race card will begin at 1:15 p.m. and have four other graded stakes.

Rule will be ridden by his regular jockey, John Velazquez.

Rule's last race was a victory in the 1 1/16-mile Sam F. Davis Stakes (Grade 3) at Tampa Bay Downs on Feb. 13. Rule has a four-race winning streak, three in stakes, and led almost the entire route in each victory.

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"He has tactical speed,'' Pletcher said. "If someone else wants the lead, we feel he can lay back.''

Rule is fourth on Daily Racing Form's list of contenders for the Kentucky Derby. His $570,000 in graded stakes earnings assures him a spot in that race.

The Florida Derby winner will earn $450,000. Second place is worth $150,000 and could start a horse toward the $200,000 or so in graded earnings that might be needed to make the Kentucky Derby field.

Trainer Michael Matz said that money is one reason he and owners Roy and Gretchen Jackson entered Lentenor.

The Florida Derby will be Lentenor's first stakes and first race on dirt.

But Matz said Lentenor has been training well on dirt at the Palm Meadows training center in Boynton Beach.

îîWe decided to give him a chance to see if he might be good enough to consider for the Kentucky Derby,'' Matz said of Lentenor, who has won one of four career starts.

The Jacksons owned and Matz trained Barbaro, who won the 2006 Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby. In the Preakness Stakes, he suffered a leg injury that resulted in his being euthanized in January 2007.

Radiohead is owned by a partnership headed by IEAH Stables and trained by Rick Dutrow. They teamed with Big Brown, who won the 2008 Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby.

Radiohead and Miner's Reserve, trained by Nick Zito, were impressive in winning one-mile races at Gulfstream on Feb. 27.

Pleasant Prince, Ice Box and Pulsion, finished fourth through sixth, respectively, in the 1-mile Fountain of Youth (Grade 2) at Gulfstream on Feb. 20. All are back for the Florida Derby.

Eskendereya, trained by Pletcher, won the Fountain of Youth. He will race in the Wood Memorial (Grade 1) at Aqueduct on April 3.


-- The $200,000 Bonnie Miss (Grade 2) is 1 mile on dirt for 3-year-old fillies.

-- The $200,000 Swale (Grade 2) is seven furlongs on dirt for 3-year-olds.

-- The $150,000 Rampart (Grade 3) is 1 mile on dirt for fillies and mare 4-years-old and up.

-- The $100,000 Appleton (Grade 3) is 7furlongs on turf for 4-year-olds and up.

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