Beethoven Out of Florida Derby

John Oxley’s Beethoven was expected to be the third or fourth choice behind Dunkirk and Quality Road in Saturday’s $750,000 Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park but will pass the race, according to trainer John Ward Jr.

“There was some heat in a tendon in a front leg (Wednesday) morning,” said Ward of the Sky Mesa colt. “It seems minor, not extreme, but we decided it’s best to not make a minor situation worse. It’s possible he could be back in the entries in the not-too-distant future.”

Beethoven scored his biggest victory in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs in late November and in two starts at Gulfstream this meet he finished fourth in the Holy Bull Stakes (G3) on Jan. 31 and third last out in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) on Feb. 28.

Desormeaux Clings to Narrow Lead in Gulfstream Standings

Jockey Kent Desormeaux has led the Gulfstream Park rider standings more days than not and goes into Florida Derby week on top with 43 wins in a tight race, one more than Jose Lezcano and John R. Velazquez.

Jockey Alan Garcia ranks fourth with 41 wins and Julien Leparoux rounds out the top five with 40 tallies. Completing the top 10 are Edgar Prado (34), Cornelio Velasquez (33), Eibar Coa (32), Elvis Trujillo (32) and Paco Lopez (22).

Garcia will be in Dubai later this week, primarily for the mount on Sheikh Hamdan al Makoum’s 5-year-old Albertus Maximus in the $6 million Dubai World Cup (G1) on Saturday. Garcia rode the son of Albert the Great to victory in the Donn Handicap (G1) here last out on Jan. 31 for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.

Cornelio Velasquez also travels to Dubai Saturday, primarily for the mount on IEAH Stables and partners’ 6-year-old Kip Deville in the $5 million Dubai Duty Free Stakes (G1). They teamed up to win the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (G1) last out on Feb. 1.

The battle for leading trainer honors could go down to the wire with Ken McPeek and Todd Pletcher tied on top with 25 wins apiece and both expected to be active through the end of the meet next month. Pletcher is bidding for a sixth straight Gulfstream meet title. Nick Zito ranks third with 18 and nine-time Gulfstream champion Bill Mott and Peter Walder tied for fourth with 14 each.