HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. (AP) - Stormello has a score to settle.
Notional has nothing to settle, but his running style seems to be a
perfect fit for the race.
Their trainers have different reasons for shipping cross
country, but their West Coast-based colts are part of a formidable
field for Saturday's $1 million Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park, a
final steppingstone to the Kentucky Derby on May 5.
Stormello is out to avenge a nose loss in the Fountain of Youth
to Scat Daddy , who was made the slight 5-2 morning-line favorite
at Wednesday's post position draw. Stormello is 3-1.
Bill Currin, who co-bred, co-owns and trains Stormello, could
have avoided a tough nine-horse field - and a long flight from
California - if he chose another Derby prep, say the Santa Anita
Derby on April 7. But he's looking forward to the rematch with Scat
"I'm not looking to duck anybody," Currin said during a
conference call this week. "I have one objective and that is to
win the Kentucky Derby. You're not going to win it by picking and
choosing soft spots. This is not a claiming race. This is about
Doug O'Neill has his own reasons for showing up. Notional, the
third choice at 4-1, is one of three Derby hopefuls he trains for
Paul Reddam - Great Hunter and Liquidity are the others. In trying
to keep them apart until the Derby, the choice for Notional was
based on the way the Fountain of Youth unfolded at Gulfstream on
"They didn't come home real fast and we thought this horse
might fit really well down there - a lot of speed and he slips in
behind," said Dennis O'Neill, the assistant for his brother, Doug.
"After that race, we huddled up and said for $1 million we might
get a really good trip behind all the speed and put us in a really
Stormello, a huge chestnut son of Icy Atlantic, comes into the 1
1/8-mile race with three victories in eight starts, including a win
over Notional in the Hollywood Futurity in December. He drew the
No. 5 post and will be ridden by Victor Espinoza, who replaces Kent
Desormeaux, one of several jockeys riding in Dubai this weekend.
In the Fountain of Youth, it was all Stormello until the final
strides, when Scat Daddy came flying down the stretch on the
outside and won by a scant nose.
"Until then I didn't have a score to settle with Scat Daddy,"
Currin said. "But once Scat Daddy caught me without seeing him on
the outside he created a score ... I was so proud of my horse. I
thought I had it won."
Currin said the race didn't take much out of Stormello.
"I was pleased because he came back as if he never went into
the race," he said, "so we'll have plenty of good times."
Notional, meanwhile, was steered clear of trouble by jockey
Robby Albarado in winning the Risen Star at the Fair Grounds on
Feb. 10. In that race, favorite Circular Quay was making a move
along the inside at the top of the stretch when he all but stopped
as the horse in front of him clipped heels and tossed his rider.
Notional won by 2¼ lengths and is 2-for-2 this year. The son of In
Excess took the San Rafael on Jan. 13.
"The race sets up well for him and he should get a really good
trip in behind the speed," Dennis O'Neill said. "Doug and I would
be a little disappointed if he didn't win, but you hope he's
finishing well and coming on good and it sets him up for the Derby
five weeks out. That would be perfect for him."
Notional drew the No. 1 post.
Scat Daddy, trained by Todd Pletcher, drew the No. 3 post and
will be ridden by Edgar Prado, who gets the mount while John
Velazquez rides in Dubai on Saturday. Cornelio Velasquez fills in
for Prado aboard Adore the Gold, who was fourth by a length in the
Fountain of Youth.
The field, from the rail out, is Notional, Imawildandcrazyguy,
Scat Daddy, Adore the Gold, Stormello, Chelokee, Boogie Boggs,
Johannesburg Star and Birdbirdistheword.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)