OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Trainer Edward Barker said Iris Smith Stable’s multiple New York-bred stakes winner Shipsational will make his next start on April 2 at Gulfstream Park in the Grade 1 Florida Derby, which offers 100-40-20-10 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top-four finishers.
The Midshipman chestnut, who finished third in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby on March 12, is currently in 15th position on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard with 14 points.
“We’re going to run in the Florida Derby. We’re down here already and I think it’s going to be a lot easier on the horse. We’ll take our shot there and if we get enough points that’s fine. If not, Plan B,” Barker said. “We’ll run him back in three weeks – third off the layoff – and I don’t have to train him hard. If we’re fortunate enough to get enough points, it’s five weeks to the Kentucky Derby which is perfect.”
Shipsational exited post 8 under Manny Franco in the Tampa Bay Derby and tracked wide from fifth position in the early running. He advanced wide into the second turn and stayed on strong down the lane to finish third, 2 3/4-lengths back of the victorious Classic Causeway and just a neck back of runner-up Grantham.
“We got hung out really wide on both turns and you absolutely cannot win being wide on both turns. You’d have to be 10 lengths the best horse,” Barker said. “He ran good and I’m pleased with how he ran. He tried. If we had an inside post it would have been a lot different.”
The $210,000 OBS March Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training purchase graduated by 6 3/4-lengths at first asking in July at Saratoga Race Course, sprinting 5 1/2-furlongs over a sloppy and sealed main track. Two starts later, Shipsational stalked and pounced to victory in the seven-furlong Bertram F. Bongard in September over a fast Big Sandy. He followed with a gate-to-wire score on October 30 in the one-turn mile Sleepy Hollow over a sloppy and sealed Belmont main track to best Overstep, a well-regarded $360,000 yearling sale purchase trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher.
Shipsational trained over the winter at Tampa Bay Downs and made his sophomore debut under Hall of Famer Javier Castellano, closing to finish second to Classic Causeway in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis on February 12.
“He showed a lot of talent from his first win on and I figured if I was ever going to take a shot at the Derby that this is the year to do it,” Barker said. “We came down here in early December and trained over this track and he’s doing exceptionally well. He came out of the race really good.”
Barker said Castellano will return to the irons in the Florida Derby.
“He rode the horse really good in the Sam Davis and he knows the horse,” Barker said. “You haven’t seen the best of this horse, yet.”
Bred in New York by Mr. and Mrs. Bertram R. Firestone, Shipsational is out of the Thunder Gulch mare Regal Approach, who is a half-sister to 2015 Grade 3 Red Smith Handicap-winner Mr Maybe.
NYRA Press Office
Photo: Shipsational stretching it out to beat Overstep by 1/2 a length in the Sleepy Hallow at Belmont Oct. 30, 2021. (Chelsea Durand)