HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. -- A field of at least seven 3-year-olds now seems definite for the $1 million Florida Derby on March 31, led by division leader Union Rags and El Padrino. Other confirmed starters include Take Charge Indy, Neck 'n Neck, News Pending, Reveron, and Fort Loudon.
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin has yet to commit Alpha to one of three Derby preps. Alpha could run in the Florida Derby, but McLaughlin said recently that the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 7 or the Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds on April 1 are more likely spots.
News Pending, runner-up to Union Rags in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth, looked good working five-eighths in 1:02.44 here Sunday, after which he galloped out six furlongs in 1:15.60 and seven-eighths in 1:28.
"We tried to slow him down today, but I was very pleased with the way he worked," trainer Dale Romans said. "He's a horse who wants to run all day. Right now, the plan is to run him in the Florida Derby and try to make enough money to get into the Kentucky Derby. If not, we'll just wait and run in the Preakness."
The Fountain of Youth was the first start in a graded stakes for News Pending, who finished a late-running second in an optional claimer on the grass at Gulfstream in his only other start this year. He won a maiden race on the Gulfstream turf in December.
Neck 'n Neck, who finished a troubled fourth behind Union Rags and News Pending in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth, worked five furlongs in 1:01.02 at Palm Meadows on Monday for trainer Ian Wilkes. Neck 'n Neck finished fifth in the Grade 3 Sam Davis at Tampa in his race before the Fountain of Youth. His only victory came in a Churchill Downs maiden race last November.