Less than six weeks before the Kentucky Derby, Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito discovered his latest 3-year-old hot prospect in Ice Box. The 3-year-old colt zoomed from last-to-first and won the Florida Derby by a nose at odds of 20-1 on Saturday.
The unexpected victory vaulted Ice Box to No. 5 in the AP's latest Run to the Roses Top 10 list of Derby contenders. Ice Box's name will be in the entry box for the May 1 Derby, but there's still a question whether he'll run once more or go into the Derby after a six-week layoff.
"I have to take it one step at a time," Zito said. "That's the way we're going to approach it. There's a possibility that we run a race before, but this race obviously was a tough race. I've got to see what I'm going to do with him."
Ice Box didn't need much help as he carried jockey Jose Lezcano to victory over 29-1 long-shot Pleasant Prince, with 9-5 favorite Rule finishing third. Lentenor, a full brother to the ill-fated Barbaro, was fourth, and will not go on to the Derby. The first three finishers will.
Lookin At Lucky remains No. 1. His gutty win in the Rebel Stakes two weeks ago solidified his status as the Derby favorite. Trainer Bob Baffert now says his 2-year-old champion will have a final prep either in the Santa Anita Derby on April 3 or the Arkansas Derby a week later.
"It depends on how he's training," Baffert said.
Eskendereya, meanwhile, remains No. 2 after not running in the Florida Derby. Instead, his owner, Ahmed Zayat, decided to enter the colt in the Wood Memorial on April 3 so there will be only a four-week wait until the Kentucky Derby.
Ice Box is the only new addition to the Top 10, with Rule dropping out.
The Louisiana Derby is this weekend's top prep race, featuring Risen Star winner Discreetly Mine, ranked No. 10 this week. Among the challengers are Ron the Greek, Wow Wow Wow and Zito's Fly Down.
Other Saturday preps include the Lane's End Stakes at Turfway Park and the UAE Derby in Dubai. Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Vale of York is out of the UAE Derby with colic.
On Sunday, Baffert sends out Conveyance -- No. 3 in the Top 10 -- in the Sunland Derby, where he will face another Derby prospect, Tempted to Tapit.
1. Lookin At Lucky (Bob Baffert, trainer; Garrett Gomez, jockey): Rebel winner revving up for one more prep, but where? ... 2-year-old champ has won 6 of 7 races for three-time Derby-winning trainer ... Next start: Santa Anita Derby (April 3, Santa Anita, synthetic) or Arkansas Derby (April 10, Oaklawn, dirt) ... Derby future wager odds: 9-1.
2. Eskendereya (Todd Pletcher, John Velazquez): Skipped Florida Derby after owner opted for race closer to Run for the Roses ... Fountain of Youth winner could be Pletcher's top gun ... Next start: Wood Memorial (April 3, Aqueduct, dirt) ... Odds: 5-1.
3. Conveyance (Baffert, Gomez): Southwest winner puts unbeaten record on line in Sunland Derby ... Baffert looking at strong Derby hand ... Next start: Sunland Derby (Sunday, Sunland Park, dirt) ... Odds: 28-1.
4. Awesome Act (Jeremy Noseda, Julien Leparoux): Gotham winner worked 4 furlongs in 50.43 at Belmont's training track last week ... Faces huge test in final Derby prep ... Next start: Wood Memorial ... Odds: 3-1 (mutuel field).
5. Ice Box (Nick Zito, Jose Lezcano): Won Florida Derby by nose with last-to-first rush ... Don't ever count out Zito from coming through with a hot Derby contender ... Next start: Undecided ... Odds: 3-1 (mutuel field).
6. Sidney's Candy (John Sadler, Joe Talamo): 2-for-2 in 2010 with wins in San Vicente and San Felipe ... Will come to Derby without a start on dirt ... Next start: Santa Anita Derby ... Odds: 33-1.
7. Odysseus (Tom Albertrani, Rajiv Maragh): Tampa Bay Derby winner is 3-1-0 from four starts ... His final prep will tell us a lot about this colt ... Next start: Wood Memorial ... Odds: 25-1.
8. Noble's Promise (Ken McPeek, Robby Albarado): Rebel runner-up is becoming Derby buzz horse ... Has 4-2-1 record from seven starts ... Next start: Arkansas Derby ... Odds: 26-1.
9. Dublin (D. Wayne Lukas, Corey Nakatani): Until further notice, Lukas stays on Derby trail with this speedy colt .... Third in Rebel looking better and better ... Next start: Arkansas Derby ... Derby odds: 10-1.
10. Discreetly Mine (Pletcher, Javier Castellano): Risen Star winner will face familiar foes this weekend ... Next start: Louisiana Derby (Saturday, Fair Grounds, dirt) ... Odds: 37-1.
Keep and eye on: Jackson Bend, Pleasant Prince, Rule, Schoolyard Dreams, Tempted to Tapit.