Spectacular Bid continued his inexorable march to the Kentucky Derby today.

He devastated the best 3-year-olds in Florida so thoroughly in the $59,800 Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park that he drained all suspense from the rest of his southern campaign. The gray colt probably will not see any serious opposition until he gets to Kentucky this spring.

Spectacular Bid scored by 8 1/2 lengths over Lot O' Gold, who would have been a legitimate stakes horse in an ordinary year.

And he shattered Calumet Farms' Derby aspirations, leaving their best 3-year-old, Rivalero, far behind. He covered the 1 1/16 miles in a swift 1:41 1/5, one second slower than the track record.

Spectacular Bid broke sharply, but jockey Ron Franklin restrained him slightly as Bishop's Choice and Rivalero dashed to the early lead. At the first turn, Franklin said, "I was kind of trapped in," so he swung his mount outside with dead aim at the two leaders.

Rivalero took a brief lead on the backstretch, but Spectacular Bid cruised past him and opened a clear advantage. "He was just galloping down the backstretch," Franklin said. "As soon as he got clear, I knew it was over."

And it was. Bishop's Choice launched a rally on the turn, but Franklin and Spectacular Bid never let him get close. "I got into him on the turn," Franklin said, "and hit up a couple times just to show what he could do."

Spectacular Bid paid $2.20 to win, and both he and Lot O' Gold returned $2.10 to place. There was a minus place pool of $20,602.11.

The victory was the ninth in 11 career starts for Spectacular Bid, who was voted champion of his generation as a 2-year-old and how has captured both of his starts at 3. His trainer, Buddy Delp, thinks he hasn't yet shown his full ability.

Although Franklin asked him for a near-maximum performance today, Delp hadn't even trained the colt hard for this race.

"He was fit after his first start of the year." Delp said, "and there was no point in cranking him up even more. It doesn't look like today's race took anything out of him. In fact, it put something into him. He's going to be even better for the (March 6) Florida Derby."

And that's very bad news for all the horses in Florida.