Long shot Ice Box takes Florida Derby
Ice Box, a 20-1 long shot, rallied from last entering the final turn Saturday to win the $750,000 Florida Derby by a nose over Pleasant Prince, another long shot, at Gulfstream Park.
Favorite Rule finished third. Lentenor, a full-brother to the late 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro, finished fourth.
Trained by two-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Nick Zito and ridden by Jose Lezcano, Ice Box earned $450,000 for the victory and will likely make his next start in the May 1 Kentucky Derby. Ice Box covered the 1 1-8th mile in 1:49.19.
Ice Box, who came into the Florida Derby off a fifth-place finish Feb. 20 in the Fountain of Youth, returned $43.40, $20.40 and $9.60. Pleasant Prince, a 25-1 long shot, paid $26.40 and $11.60 while Rule returned $3.40.
Zito must now decide whether to train Ice Box up to the Kentucky Derby or get another race in before the Run for the Roses. Zito, who won the Kentucky Derby in 1991 with Strike the Gold and 1994 with Go for Gin, seemed to be leaning toward training the 3-year-old son of Pulpit up to the Derby.
``It's a possibility,'' said Zito of running Ice Box before the Kentucky Derby. ``You never say never. But this is a tough race. Obviously, he's had a tough winter like all these 3-year-olds. He's had three 1 1-8th mile races in a row. You can think about running him back in three weeks, but we have to figure out what we're going to do with him.''
Breaking from post No. 8 in the 11-horse field, Ice Box broke alertly but was taken to the rail by Lezcano and dropped well behind the rest of the field around the first turn and down the backstretch.
``I just let him go at his own pace through the first part of the race and didn't want to rush him,'' Lezcano said.
While Rule, winner of the Delta Jackpot and Sam F Davis, battled on the front-end past fractions of 23.21 seconds, 46.46 and 1:10.76, Ice Box raced well back before making his move entering the final turn.
Following Lentenor between horses past the three-eighths pole, Lezcano guided Ice Box five-wide entering the stretch. Despite taking the lead from a game Rule at the sixteenth pole, Pleasant Prince, fourth in the Fountain of Youth, couldn't hold off Ice Box at the finish.
``I got into him a little more at the three-eighths and that's when he took off and started flying,'' Lezcano said.
Ice Box was purchased by owned Robert LaPenta at auction as a yearling for $125,000. The colt has now won three of seven career starts.
Jockey John Velazquez said Rule, who had a four-race winning streak snapped, probably went too fast early in the race.
``It was hard with all those sprinters in there,'' Velazquez said. ``I knew we were going too fast, but it was hard settling down with all of them. I probably should have taken my horse out of there (the pace battle) from the beginning.''
Soaring Empire, owned in partnership by University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino, was no factor while finishing eighth.