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Undefeated Purple Egg eyeing Gulfstream Park Derby

When Purple Egg couldn't even handle participating in the post parade and was scratched twice at Monmouth Park last summer, it would have been difficult to believe that he would go on to become a major contender for the $100,000 Gulfstream Park Derby on January 1.

Some might have said that trainer Jane Cibelli got what she paid for with the $22,000 yearling purchase.

In the post parade for his debut, the well-bred son of Lion Heart acted up and unseated his rider.

"He had schooled in the paddock; he schooled with a pony...I have my own pony. He'd done everything right," Cibelli said. "But when we handed him off to the pony in the post parade, he just lost it and dropped the rider."

Writing it off as first-race jitters, Cibelli went back to schooling Purple Egg before dropping him back into the Monmouth entry box. Unfortunately, he once again acted up in the post parade and dropped his rider again, prompting his trainer to make a difficult decision.

"It broke my heart to geld him," Cibelli said. "But I don't think he would have made it as a colt."

Gelding Purple Egg proved to be the right decision, as evidenced by three straight impressive victories to launch a now very promising career. Cibelli wasn't exactly surprised by Purple Egg's performance once he finally made it to the starting gate.

"The first time I saw this horse gallop, I said, 'What a stride!' He did things so easily," said Cibelli, recalling his early training at Tampa Bay Downs last season. "When I watched him gallop, I said, 'His stride is about twice as long as everybody else's.'"

That physical talent was very much in evidence when he captured his debut at Monmouth on August 23 by nearly five lengths. He came right back to handily win an entry-level allowance race at Parx by nearly seven lengths. Purple Egg was tested in the $75,000 Inaugural at Tampa Bay Downs on December 1, and he came through with a gutsy off-the-pace victory over Grade 3 winner Brave Dave by a length.

"It certainly was his toughest race. His first two races came somewhat easily to him. (Brave Dave) had already shown that he was accomplished. When they ran the first quarter in :23, I honestly didn't think (Purple Egg) could win it at that point," Cibelli said. "I said, 'There's no way he's going to win that race. (Brave Dave) has got everything his way. He's a speed horse and after getting the first quarter in 23, he's going to have some kick left.' My horse impressed me to beat that horse on his own terms."

With a six-furlong stakes victory on Purple Egg's resume, Cibelli is looking at the one-mile, one-turn Gulfstream Park Derby as a perfect opportunity to start the process of stretching out her gelding.

"I've always thought that he wanted to go long," said Cibelli, the two-time Monmouth training titlist who has divisions at both Gulfstream Park and Tampa Bay Downs.

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