Fountain of Youth S. (G2) hero ESKENDEREYA (Giant's Causeway) worked an easy five furlongs in 1:02 2/5 on Sunday morning over Palm Meadows's fast dirt as he is kept on edge for next Saturday's $750,000 Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park, leading a team of a dozen stakes runners on the work tab from trainer Todd Pletcher's arsenal of talent this winter.
Eskendereya romped home an 8 1/2-length winner of the Fountain of Youth last out on February 20 over the track and 1 1/8-mile distance of the Florida Derby and will likely be a heavy favorite for the 59th edition of Gulfstream's historic Kentucky Derby (G1) preview.
Earning the bullet for five furlongs on the Palm Meadows tab Sunday morning was Grade 3-placed SOARING EMPIRE (Empire Maker), who was timed in 1:00 2/5 for trainer Cam Gambolati, fastest of 43 at the distance as he tunes up for the Florida Derby. The dark bay, whose only loss to date came as a third in last year's Iroquois S. (G3), will likely be a longshot as he makes his fourth career start and first around two turns. Eddie Castro, aboard for the work, will ride the colt in the Florida Derby.
Four other probable/possible Florida Derby starters worked over the fast Gulfstream track Sunday morning.
Fountain of Youth fourth PLEASANT PRINCE (Indy King) was caught going a bullet five-eighths in :59 1/5 for trainer Wesley Ward. The chestnut was runner-up to fellow Florida Derby hopeful Ice Box (Pulpit) going nine furlongs in an allowance prior to the Fountain of Youth.
"I was really excited going into the race (Fountain of Youth)," Ward said Friday afternoon. "The horse was training great. I've always felt since we bought the horse that he was going to be something special, and I think he's starting to emerge into what his potential is. Hopefully, he is one that is a late developer and will come around quickly to get us the big one (Florida Derby)."
FIRST DUDE (Stephen Got Even) worked five furlongs in 1:02 for trainer Dale Romans as he prepares to make his stakes debut in the Florida Derby. The bay sophomore finished second in two starts in Kentucky last year, broke his maiden going a mile at Gulfstream on January 30 in his seasonal debut and finished a game head second in a 1 1/8-mile allowance last out on February 21.
Two others on the possible Florida Derby list working at Gulfstream Sunday morning were TEMPTED TO TAPIT (Tapit), who logged five furlongs in :59 4/5 for trainer Steve Klesaris, CHRISTINE DAAE (Giant's Causeway), who posted three-quarters in 1:11 for conditioner Patrick Biancone.
Following an 11 1/2-length maiden victory, Tempted to Tapit finished second to Discreetly Mine (Mineshaft) in the February 20 Risen Star S. (G2) at Fair Grounds last out, shipping in from Klesaris' Gulfstream barn. His connections are weighing whether to run the gray gelding in the Florida Derby or return to New Orleans for the Louisiana Derby (G2) a week later on March 27.
Biancone plans to run Pulsion (Include) in the Florida Derby after the bay finished a troubled sixth in the Fountain of Youth and has also nominated Christine Daae to the Florida Derby as well as the $200,000 Bonnie Miss S. (G2) over the track and distance earlier on the card. The chestnut filly has won both of her starts at the meet after a fourth-place career debut last summer at Hollywood Park. She broke her maiden by 8 3/4 lengths at Gulfstream going seven furlongs on January 15 and came back to score by 2 3/4 lengths going 1 1/8 miles on February 28.