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Florida Derby: Rule and Lentenor highlight 11-horse field

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. — Barbaro's brother Lentenor has been entered to run in the Florida Derby, one of the key prep races for the Kentucky Derby.

Lentenor is the co-third choice at 6-1 in a field of 11 3-year-olds entered Wednesday for Saturday's $750,000 race at Gulfstream Park.

Rule was made the 5-2 favorite and brings a four-race winning streak into the Florida Derby. The colt is trained by Todd Pletcher.

Rule completed his juvenile campaign by winning the Grade III Delta Jackpot at Delta Downs on Dec. 4. He was very impressive winning his 3-year-old debut by going wire-to-wire for a 3-length win in the Grade III Sam Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on Feb. 13.

Radiohead is the second choice at 3-1.

Radiohead will have Edgar Prado in the saddle for trainer Rick Dutrow. The owner-trainer team won the 2008 Florida Derby with Big Brown before he went on to race undefeated through the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.

Radiohead won two of six starts with two second-place finishes in England last year for trainer Brian Meehan before being sold to his current owners and finishing seventh in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita on Nov. 7 in his American debut.

The son of Johannesburg bounced back with a strong performance at Gulfstream, winning a 7-furlong allowance race by 3¼ lengths on Feb. 27.

Also in the field is Soaring Empire, owned in part by Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino.

The son of 2003 Florida Derby winner Empire Maker will make his fourth career start and first around two turns.

A $190,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase, Soaring Empire looked good winning a 7-furlong allowance race in his Gulfstream debut on Feb. 25 in his first race since finishing third in the Grade III Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs on Nov. 1.

But Lentenor will get the most attention in Saturday's race.

Jockey Alan Garcia will ride Lentenor for trainer Michael Matz as the colt is tested on dirt for the first time after making his career debut on Polytrack at Keeneland in late October and three starts since on turf.

Matz was considering the Wood Memorial before switching gears and opting for the Florida Derby instead.

"We're sort of at the point now where we want to give him a chance somewhere to see if he can qualify for the Kentucky Derby," Matz told the Daily Racing Form. "The fact he worked good the other day with other horses and came out of it well went into the decision."

Barbaro won the 2006 Florida Derby before his victory in the Kentucky Derby. Barbaro broke down in the Preakness and was euthanized eight months later.

Fountain of Youth winner Eskendereya is skipping the race for next month's Wood Memorial.

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