HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. -- Trainer Bruce Levine has all but ruled out any chance of making the Grade 1 Florida Derby here on March 20 with Buddy's Saint and will now focus on using the Grade 1 Wood Memorial two weeks later at Aqueduct for his 3-year-old's final Kentucky Derby prep.
Buddy's Saint has not returned to the track since his eventful ninth-place finish in last Saturday's Grade 2 Fountain of Youth. Buddy's Saint was roughed up along the rail when sent up into tight quarters on the opening turn of the nine-furlong Fountain of Youth. The outing was his first since winning the Grade 2 Remsen at Aqueduct nearly three months earlier.
"He got knocked up in behind when he was bounced around and into the rail on Saturday," Levine said. "It's more muscular than anything, but I won't send him back to the track until he's 100 percent. Everything is day to day now. Right now, the Wood is our most likely option because it gives us six weeks, and I already know he likes the track. I'll train him up to the Wood down here and then probably catch a plane or a van back to New York about six days before the race."
Levine said he's not sure how much Buddy's Saint got out of his race in the Fountain of Youth, considering the circumstances.
"They knocked the wind out of him, he hit that rail pretty hard, and it had to rattle him," Levine said. "But I trained him hard up to the race, put a lot of miles into him, so missing a little time now shouldn't be too big a setback."
First Dude searching for Derby prep
Trainer Dale Romans said he'll start looking for a Derby prep somewhere for his lightly raced but promising 3-year-old prospect First Dude, who dropped a tough nose decision to Fly Down following a prolonged stretch battle going nine furlongs under entry-level allowance conditions here Sunday. First Dude, a son of Stephen Got Even, has not finished worse than second in his four starts, with two of his three losses coming at the hands of Fly Down.
"I think he can be a serious 3-year-old," Romans said. "We've got one shot to get some purse money to get him into the Derby, and we've got to make it count. I'll just see where everybody else goes and make a decision based on that."
Romans also said his multiple graded stakes winner Lost Aptitude came out of his last-place finish in the Fountain of Youth in good order.
"I guess he's just a turf horse," Romans said. "We took a shot, and it didn't work out. We'll just save him now for the turf stakes at Keeneland."