HALLANDALE, Fla. -- Orchids, bagels and indecision.
These components made up the post-race Florida Derby scene yesterday morning at Howie Tesher's barn at Gulfstream Park.
The center of attention was the big roan colt, Bull Inthe Heather, surprise winner of the race and one of two legitimate Kentucky Derby contenders to emerge from the stakes on Saturday. The other is the fast-closing Wallenda, who finished third.
The owners and trainers of runner-up Storm Tower are re-considering their plans and might opt to bypass the Derby and aim for the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on May 15.
Bull Inthe Heather surveyed the scene outside Tesher's barn yesterday with one slightly swollen eye, received no doubt from the impact of a lot of mud being kicked into his face after his come-from-behind victory the previous afternoon.
"Some people talk about days of wine and roses," Tesher, the winning trainer, said. "We've got bagels and lox."
Well-wishers stopped by, from old friends like trainer Danny Perlsweig to a contingent of Japanese businessmen from the Orient Corp., which owns the track. They brought their cameras and took pictures of the horse. Some plucked orchids from a giant horse shoe that had adorned the Gulfstream winner's circle the day before, but was now propped up against the feed room door.
"The idea is to get the horse to the [Kentucky] Derby the easiest way possible," Tesher said. He listed four options -- either the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland Race Course or the Flamingo Stakes at Hialeah Race Course on April 10; the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland on April 17 or the Derby Trial at Churchill Downs on April 24, a week before the May 1 Derby.
"If all else fails, I could run him somewhere in a [condition] allowance race," Tesher added. But wherever Bull Inthe Heather goes, it won't be New York. "He needs Lasix, which we can't use there," he said.
The Florida Derby was Bull Inthe Heather's second win after breaking his maiden at Aqueduct on Dec. 12.
Wherever the horse goes, so goes his jockey Wigberto Ramos.
"Way to go, Wiggie," the Florida fans screamed after Saturday's race.
The 25-year-old Panamanian-born rider was the leading jockey at Gulfstream Park in 1991. But last year he had problems with his back-- Tesher said a tubercular-type of growth had appeared on his spine -- and he was sidelined a couple of months.
"When I got down here [with Bull Inthe Heather], it was a hard sell to line up a [name] jockey since the horse hadn't done much," Tesher said. "I talked to Wiggie [eighth in the Gulfstream standings]. He's a strong finisher and obviously suits the horse."
Ben Perkins, Jr. said that Charlie Hesse, one of Storm Tower's owners, "is taking three or four days off and going to the Islands. He's worn out. When he gets back, we'll take a hard look at what we're going to do."
If Storm Tower bypasses the Derby, Perkins will use one of three races as possible Preakness preps. They are the Wood Memorial (Aqueduct, April 17), the Federico Tesio Stakes (Pimlico, April 24) or the Withers Mile (Belmont, May 5).
Storm Tower is scheduled to be shipped to Perkins' Maryland headquarters at the Bowie Training Center tomorrow.
The statuses of the Florida Derby starters:
Horse .......... .......... Status
Bull Inthe Heather ........ Undecided
Storm Tower ............... Returns to Maryland
Wallenda ....... .......... Blue Grass Stakes
Kissin Kris ............... Ships to Kentucky
Silver of Silver .......... Blue Grass Stakes
Halostrada ....... ........ Undecided
Duc D'Sligovil ............ Flamingo Stakes
Pride Of Burkaan .......... Undecided
Living Vicariously ........ Ships to Kentucky
Hidden Trick .............. Flamingo Stakes
Great Navigator ........... Kept in sprints
Gentle Patrick ............ Flamingo Stakes
Ambush Alley .............. Allowance company