Big Brown pointing toward Florida Derby
HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. -- The Blue Grass is out and the Florida Derby has suddenly become the next target for Big Brown, the undefeated and as yet unchallenged 3-year-old sensation who took south Florida by storm Wednesday after cruising to a 12 3/4-length allowance victory at Gulfstream Park.
The Grade 1, $1 million Florida Derby will be run March 29.
Trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. said leaving the winner's circle Wednesday that the timing and Keeneland's Polytrack surface would be best suited for Big Brown's next start. But a few hours later, those plans had changed.
"We got to thinkin' and drinkin' last night, and, by the time we were done, we decided the Florida Derby would be the best option," said Dutrow, who trains Big Brown for the IEAH Stables and Paul Pompa Jr. "Since he was well within himself and really didn't have to give his best effort in this race, bringing him back in 24 days for the Florida Derby is no problem at all. And I love the five weeks we'd have to the Kentucky Derby if things continue to work out for us."
Dutrow also said he likes the idea of keeping Big Brown, who earned a 104 Beyer Speed Figure for his latest victory, right where he is at the Palm Meadows training facility.
"He's had some feet issues, but he's done super on that track at Palm Meadows," Dutrow said. "I'd love to keep him training there instead of having to ship him to a different surface at Keeneland. And he might have to run a lot harder in the Blue Grass than he will by going to the Florida Derby."
Dutrow also said he has secured the services of jockey Kent Desormeaux for the Florida Derby, even though the veteran rider had been scheduled to ride on the Dubai World Cup card that same day.
"Wherever Big Brown goes, Mr. Desormeaux will go," said Desormeaux's agent, Mike Sellito.
Dutrow also has decided to forego his planned trip to Dubai, where he is slated to run Diamond Stripes in the Godolphin Mile and Benny the Bull in the Golden Shaheen on March 29.
"I'm going to stay here with Big Brown and the rest of the horses," Dutrow said. "But I will be sending my family, my mom, daughter, and brother, as well as my assistant to Dubai for the World Cup races."
Elysium Fields, War Pass work
Elysium Fields, runner-up to Cool Coal Man in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes, worked four furlongs in 49 seconds around the dogs here Thursday. Elysium Fields could vie for favoritism with Big Brown in the Florida Derby.
War Pass, the current Kentucky Derby favorite, also worked Thursday going five furlongs in 1:01.80 over a good track at Palm Meadows. It was the undefeated Eclipse Award winner's first work since posting an easy 7 1/2-length victory in his 2008 debut here Feb. 24. War Pass is scheduled to make his next start in the Grade 3 Tampa Bay Derby on March 15.
Golden Velvet returns after 'sponging'
A field of seven older fillies and mares has been entered for Sunday's Grade 2 Rampart Handicap, including Golden Velvet, who will go postward as the starting highweight under 119 pounds.
Golden Velvet is coming off a dead heat for win in the Grade 3 Sabin Handicap, after which it was discovered that she ran the race with a sponge in one of her sinus cavities. The "sponging" incident remains under investigation by the Florida Division of Business Regulations.
Golden Velvet will face a field that also includes Tessa Blue, Ballado's Thunder, Peach Flambe, Spring Waltz, Cat Can Do, and Altesse.
Nyuk Nyuk Nyuk takes shot in stakes
Saturday's $200,000 Richter Scale Handicap is about the last place in the world trainer Tino Attard thought his 7-year-old gelding Nyuk Nyuk Nyuk would be running when the meet opened two months ago.
Nyuk Nyuk Nyuk enters the Grade 2 Richter Scale off a pair of easy victories here in January, albeit against $35,000 and $62,500 claiming opposition. The son of Mutakddim earned career-best Beyer Speed Figures of 100 and 103, respectively, for the efforts.
"My brother [Sid Attard] had this horse at Woodbine and said he was feeling so good, and suggested we bring him down to Gulfstream for the winter instead of putting him on the farm," said Attard, who has sent out five winners from just 16 starters at the meet. "And he just has done everything right since coming down. He loves the racetrack. The owners are good people and are willing to spend their money when their horses are right, so we decided why not take a chance in the stakes."
Attard, who had Milwaukee Brew for owner Frank Stronach when that one won his maiden here in 2000, said he's enjoying his success this winter.
"I'm having a better meet than I expected," Attard said. "A lot of which comes from having owners who'll let you drop horses in where they can win."