HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – D J Stable LLC and Robert Cotran’s Hades certainly pleased trainer Joe Orseno during a five-furlong breeze and gallop-out Sunday morning at Gulfstream Park in preparation for a start in the $1 million Curlin Florida Derby (Grade 1) on March 30.

“It was what I call a ‘Wow!’ work,” Orseno said of the Florida-bred son of Ocala Stud stallion Awesome Slew.

The undefeated winner of the Grade 3 Holy Bull on Feb. 3 breezed five furlongs in 1:00.34, the second fastest clocking of 14 recorded works at the distance.

“I put a horse in front of him to have a horse to run at a little bit. At the quarter-pole, I told both riders to ask their horses. If the other horse ran away from him, I needed to know that,” Orseno said. “The rider on the inside horse said when he asked, his horse responded and found another gear, and Hades ran by him so fast it’s kind of ridiculous.”

Hades’ work was far from done.

“I’ve got him galloping out the mile in 1:42. Horses don’t do that,” Orseno, who paired Hades with maiden Halon, said.

Hades took advantage of his rail post position for the mile-and-one-sixteenth Holy Bull to cut the corner on the first turn and take the lead into the backstretch as 2023 Eclipse Award juvenile champion Fierceness was recovering from a troubled start. Hades showed the way along the backstretch under pressure before Fierceness advanced to engage him going into the far turn. Fierceness poked his head in front on the turn, but Hades battled back under Paco Lopez in the stretch and drew clear to win by two lengths.

Hades had overcome bumping at the start of his Dec. 9 debut at Gulfstream Park, closing from well back to get up in time to win a five-and-a-half-furlong maiden special weight race at Gulfstream. The $130,000 purchase at the 2022 Ocala Breeders’ Sales April Sale out of the Ocala Stud consignment had a much easier time of things in his return in a seven-furlong allowance, shaking off early pressure while setting the pace and drawing away to an eight-length romp.

“His first race, he was far back and circled the field 11-wide,” Orseno said. “That’s the beauty of this horse, he’s kind of push-button. The next time, he drew the inside and had to go. In the Holy Bull, to tell you the truth, we weren’t going to go, but when he drew the one hole, I said going in, ‘It might not be the tactic to win the Kentucky Derby, but it’s the perfect tactic today.’ Fortunately, this horse will let you do that. Some horses are one-dimensional, but this horse is not.”

Although the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth on March 2 was scratched down to just five horses when heavily favored Speak Easy unseated his rider in his pre-race warm-up, Orseno hasn’t questioned his decision to bypass the final local prep for the Florida Derby with Hades.

“For me, my horse didn’t have that look in his eye that he had until two days before the Fountain of Youth, when I could say, ‘Wow: The way he feels now, maybe I should have been in there.’ Never did I think that I did the wrong thing,” Orseno said. “He has a big future, so we’re not looking at just the next two races, the Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby. We’re looking down the road too. You’ve got to pick and choose your spots.”

Hades’ standing among this year’s Kentucky Derby prospects was hardly diminished by the victory of Holy Bull runner-up Domestic Product in Saturday’s Tampa Bay Derby (G2).

“He didn’t win by much and he did get up to win, so I think that complimented us a little bit,” Orseno said.

Sunday’s breeze was Hades’ final serious preparation for the Florida Derby, in which he is expected to clash again with Fierceness.

“Next week he’s going to open gallop. He’s not even going to breeze. And then he’ll just have a little something the next week, so today was his major prep,” Orseno said.

Hades is out of the Florda-bred mare The Shady Lady, by Quality Road and was bred in Florida by Ocala Stud, Joseph M. O’Farrell III, David O’Farrell, et. al.

Return to the March 10 issue of Wire to Wire