The Brock Talk

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Time Not On The Side of Ice Box

In looking at Ice Box in the Florida Derby (gr. 1) I don't see much wrong with the performance. Like most runners with a come-from-behind style, he seemingly galloped along far back behind a solid pace then excelled with agility and speed on the far turn, raced around the field and chased down the stubborn leaders Rule and Pleasant Prince for the win.

No doubt the quick pace benefited Ice Box and the stalking Pleasant Prince while potentially hindering the chances of front-running Rule, but a similar if not quicker pace is more than likely in the Kentucky Derby. The Run for the Roses will also be a run through traffic for Ice Box and any other late runners and the large field in Kentucky will accentuate racing luck.

There are two obvious points to make about the 2010 Florida Derby however. First, it was without the first three finishers from the main local prep, the Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. 2), including the impressive winner Eskendereya who defected to New York for the Wood Memorial (gr. 1) in two weeks. Which takes us to the second point regarding the Florida Derby and it's new time slot six weeks before the Derby.

That timing makes the Florida Derby a bit like mama bear's porridge. A month and-a-half may be too long to train leading up to the biggest race in the world. And it may not be enough time to squeeze in another start. Thus the delimma for Nick Zito (photo) and Wesley Ward, the trainers of Ice Box and Pleasant Prince respectively.

The Florida Derby has a long history of producing Kentucky Derby winners, but it also has a reputation for moving around the calendar. Thunder Gulch won the Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby in 1995, as did Monarchos in 2001. But there was a seven week gap before Kentucky during those years. Both horses raced again before winning their Derbies and both finished second - Thunder Gulch in the Louisiana Derby and Monarchos in the Wood Memorial.

Big Brown and Barbaro, the last two Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby winners in 2008 and '06 respectively, both had only five weeks between the two races. Both went directly from Florida to Kentucky.

Neither Zito nor Ward have indicated their plans, other than to say they both want to go to Kentucky, as does trainer Todd Pletcher with Florida Derby third-place finisher Rule. All three trainers are well qualified to take the Derby but only Zito has done it - with Strike the Gold in 1991 and Go For Gin in 1994.

Zito did tell ESPN's Paul Moran that he is "going to try as hard as I can to win the Kentucky Derby with this horse." Coming from Zito that means something. But how he plans to manage it, remains to be seen. Then comes the if.

1 comment:

Maddie4361 said...

If anybody can train a horse up to the Derby on 6 weeks, Zito can.