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.
"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.