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Matador Will Wear Blinkers in Florida Derby

Matador has joined the list of contenders for the $1-million Besilu Stables Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park on March 29.             

Owned by John Oxley, the son of Malibu Moon won the Cup and Saucer Stakes at Woodbine last season for trainer Mark Casse. His two outings this year have come at Tampa Bay Downs, where he was beaten only a length when fourth in the Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) on Feb. 1, and was most recently a troubled fifth in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) on March 8. Jockey Julien Leparoux, who rode Matador in both Tampa Bay starts, will have the mount once more in the nine-furlong Florida Derby.            

"We're going to put blinkers on Matador to try to get him a little more into the race (early)," Casse said. "We think he has a little more speed than he's been showing. He got away a little bit slow (in the Tampa Bay Derby). They came over on him at the start and he was just plastered with dirt."            

The 3-year-old colt broke a bit tardily in the Tampa Bay Derby and trailed the field for the first four furlongs. He rallied on the outside in the stretch to finish fifth, a length behind stablemate Conquest Titan. That colt was previously second to likely Florida Derby favorite Cairo Prince in the Miller Lite Holy Bull Stakes (G2) on Jan. 25.            

"Julien was after him the entire first half mile and that he finally started running late," Casse added. "So we're going with the blinkers to try to sharpen him up a little bit, and hopefully he'll show a little bit more speed."            

The Ontario-bred Matador will be bidding to provide Oxley with a second Florida Derby trophy. Oxley, an Oklahoma native, also owned Monarchos, who captured the 2001 Florida Derby en route to victory in the Kentucky Derby (G1). Oxley purchased Matador for $150,000 as a yearling at Keeneland September.      


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