Robert LaPenta's ICE BOX (Pulpit) drilled a co-bullet half-mile in :47 1/5 Saturday morning over the fast dirt at Palm Meadows for trainer Nick Zito as he tunes up for his engagement in next Saturday's $750,000 Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park. The chestnut colt will bid to improve on his fifth-place finish last out in the February 20 Fountain of Youth S. (G2) over the same track and 1 1/8-mile distance of the Florida Derby.
Ice Box broke from the far outside 10 post in the Fountain of Youth, ran in that spot for the opening half-mile and made up some marginal ground to take fifth by a neck over PULSION (Include). He was beaten a total of 12 lengths by ESKENDEREYA (Giant's Causeway), who won by 8 1/2 lengths over Zito-trained Jackson Bend (Hear No Evil). Ice Box raced much closer to the pace when winning a nine-furlong allowance at Gulfstream on January 18 in his sophomore debut.
"He's an up and coming horse," Zito said Friday afternoon. "He likes the surface and won a 'one other than' (allowance) and was very impressive doing it. Every time you win an allowance race (at Gulfstream) you know you're racing with the best horses in the country.
"In regards to the Fountain of Youth, he finished a respectable fifth. He made a good move. I think he's going to be a lot closer that people think (early in the Florida Derby). I know we have to beat Eskendereya."
Zito had another promising three-year-old on Saturday morning's Palm Meadows work tab as Richard Pell's FLY DOWN (Mineshaft) was timed in a sharp :48 for the half-mile. The chestnut has won his last two of three career starts, most recently a 1 1/8-mile allowance at Gulfstream on February 21 in his three-year-old bow and is eligible for the Florida Derby.
Eskendereya leads the list of probable/possible starters for the 59th edition of the Florida Derby. Others in addition to Ice Box include Pulsion, RADIOHEAD (GB) (Johannesburg), RULE (Roman Ruler), SOARING EMPIRE (Empire Make), PLEASANT PRINCE (Indy King), FIRST DUDE (Stephen Got Even) and GAME ON DUDE (Awesome Again).