Originally created 03/16/04

Upsets prompt reshuffling of top 10 Derby prospects



The favorites faltered in Florida, and the 2-year-old champions were corralled in California.

After a weekend of surprising results, topped by Friends Lake's win in the Florida Derby and Preachinatthebar's triumph in the San Felipe Stakes, the road to the Kentucky Derby has become even more cluttered.

Friends Lake, a 37-1 long shot, upset even-money choice Read the Footnotes in Saturday's $1 million Florida Derby at Gulfstream, and Wynn Dot Comma edged even-money choice Eurosilver in the Swale Stakes the following race.

At Santa Anita, trainer Richard Mandella watched 2-year-old champion filly Halfbridled lose Saturday, and 2-year-old champion male Action This Day lose Sunday. Halfbridled was second in the Santa Anita Oaks, her first defeat after four wins last year, and Action This Day was sixth in the San Felipe.

The upsets resulted in a reshuffling of the Top 10 Derby prospects this week. Birdstone, set to run in the Lane's End Stakes at Turfway Park on Saturday, now tops the list, followed by former No. 1 Eurosilver, who was beaten by a head.

Both colts are trained by Nick Zito, whose third Derby prospect The Cliff's Edge was a fast-closing third in the Florida Derby.

"Other than winning, we can't be disappointed," Zito said. "My goal is to get all three in the starting gate at Churchill Downs" for the May 1 Derby.

Read the Footnotes faded in the stretch and finished fourth, unable to duplicate his gut-wrenching effort in winning the Fountain of Youth on Feb. 14.

Trainer Bob Baffert has another Derby prospect in Preachinatthebar, a 9-1 choice who gamely held off St Averil by a nose in the San Felipe. It was the second major stakes win for Baffert in eight days - Wimbledon won the Louisiana Derby on March 7.

"It's like the Final Four ... we're in the prelims right now and you sort of feel like you get to go on to the next game," Baffert said.

Other winners over the weekend included Limehouse in Sunday's Tampa Bay Derby and Kilgowan in Saturday's El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate.

The top 10 prospects:

1. Birdstone (Nick Zito, trainer; Jerry Bailey, jockey) - Training solidly at Palm Meadows, with Zito looking for big race in Saturday's Lane's End against what looks to be mediocre field. ... Has won three straight, including an allowance in his only start this year. ... Derby future wager odds (pool 2): 12-1.

2. Eurosilver (Zito, Javier Castellano) - Zito unfazed by setback in seven-furlong Swale. ... Remains on course for Derby. ... Next start: Blue Grass (April 10). ... Odds: 11-1.

3. Master David (Bobby Frankel, Edgar Prado) - Beat Preachinatthebar in winning Sham Stakes on Feb. 8. ... Missed Florida Derby due to fever. ... Training at Hollywood Park. ... Next start: Wood Memorial (April 10). ... Odds: 18-1.

4. Wimbledon (Bob Baffert, Javier Santiago) - Enjoyed perfect trip in Louisiana Derby win. ... Next start: Santa Anita Derby (April 3) or Wood Memorial. ... Odds: 13-1.

5. Friends Lake (John Kimmel, Richard Migliore) - Jumps into Derby picture with Florida Derby upset. ... New York bred has won three of five starts. ... Nice breeding - son of A.P. Indy, by the Grade 1-winning dam Antespend. ... Next start: Kentucky Derby (May 1). ... Odds: 9-5 (mutuel field).

6. Value Plus (Todd Pletcher, John Velazquez) - Earns this spot with solid runner-up effort in Florida Derby. ... Proved he can run around two turns. ... Gray colt purchased for $1.1 million. ... Next start: Blue Grass or Wood Memorial. ... Odds: 27-1.

7. Preachinatthebar (Baffert, Santiago) - Gutty effort to hold off St Averil. ... Baffert and owner Mike Pegram on Derby trail again (they won with Real Quiet in 1998). ... Next start: Undecided. ... Odds: 9-5 (mutuel field).

8. Read the Footnotes (Rick Violette Jr., Bailey) - Faded in stretch of Florida Derby, reinforcing the bounce theory after hard-fought win in Fountain of Youth ... Another New York bred in Derby contention. ... Next start: Undecided. ... Odds: 20-1.

9. Imperialism (Kristin Mulhall, Victor Espinoza) - San Rafael and San Vicente winner gets real test in Santa Anita Derby. ... Odds: 24-1.

10. St Averil (Rafael Becerra, Tyler Baze) - Did nothing to lower stock with runner-up finish in San Felipe. ... Next start: Santa Anita Derby. ... 15-1.

Keep in mind: Eddington, Halfbridled, Limehouse, Lion Heart, The Cliff's Edge.