HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - The top three finishers from Saturday's $750,000 Florida Derby came out of their races in good order and will now set their sights on the May 1 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, their connections said Sunday.
Ice Box, Pleasant Prince, and Rule will all run in the Derby without having another prep race, meaning they will have six weeks between races. Ice Box defeated Pleasant Prince by a nose Saturday, both coming from well off the pace, while it was another 1 1/4 lengths back to Rule, who held on despite racing on the lead. Ice Box and Pleasant Prince each earned a 99 Beyer Speed Figure.
Nick Zito, the trainer of Ice Box, said that his colt was "a little tired, but otherwise he looked really good'' Sunday morning. It was the third nine-furlong race of the winter for Ice Box, who won a first-level allowance race here in January before finishing fifth to Eskendereya in the Fountain of Youth.
"He's had three mile-and-an-eighth races in a row, I don't see the point of running anywhere,'' Zito said. "There's absolutely nothing to gain. Zero."
Zito said he would ship Ice Box straight to Churchill Downs approximately the first week of April.
Pleasant Prince, who fell a nose short to Ice Box in the Florida Derby, "came out of the race awesome,'' according to trainer Wesley Ward. Pleasant Prince will be flown on Wednesday to Lexington, Ky., where he will do all of his training leading up to the Kentucky Derby over Keeneland's synthetic surface, Ward said
"Keeneland's surface has been great to me the last few years,'' Ward said. "I've probably had a thousand works and I could count on one hand the number of horses that have gotten hurt there. The big thing leading into the Derby is keeping your horses sound. I've got nothing against Churchill, it's just the luck I've had at Keeneland and the fact I'll be there with the rest of my horses.''
Trainer Todd Pletcher said Rule came out of the Florida Derby well. Rule was only beaten 1 1/4 lengths despite battling Pulsion for the early lead. Pulsion faded to sixth.
"I still think he ran very well, he was one of the few horses that was part of the pace that stuck around,'' Pletcher said. "We felt like we learned something, I think Johnny learned something. Hopefully it improves him for the next one. Johnny felt like if he could do it over he would have opted to grab a hold of him, ease him back and wait a little longer to make his final move.''
Pletcher said he is looking to ship Rule to Churchill Downs around April 20.
Radiohead, who finished ninth after being forced to race wide early, came out of his race in good shape, trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. said. There are no plans for the colt's next start.
"I got no idea what went wrong,'' Dutrow said.
Dutrow said that Swale Stakes winner D' Funnybone was in good shape Sunday morning and that the Grade 2 Withers Stakes at Aqueduct on April 24 is a possible next start.
Bonnie Miss one-two finishers Devil May Care and Amen Hallelujah will be pointed to the Kentucky Oaks on April 30.