Fountain of Youth Good Indicator for Florida Derby

by Greg Melikov

posted on February 16, 2010 in General Discussion, Other Events | No Comments >>

How a 3-year-old runs in Gulfstream Park’s second oldest stakes race often foretells a good showing in the Florida Derby.

Five of the past 15 Fountain of Youth (FOY) winners repeated in the track’s premier offering: Quality Road, last year; Scat Daddy, 2007; High Fly, ’05; Vicar, ’99; and Thunder Gulch, ’95.

Since ’79, only Spectacular Bid and Thunder Gulch scored the triple, taking the FOY, Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby. However, FOY runners-up Go for Gin, ’94, and Pleasant Colony, ’81, plus third-place finishers Unbridled, ’90, and Swale, ’84, were successful on the first Saturday in May.

The first FOY winner to capture the Florida and Kentucky derbies was Tim Tam in ’58.

Saturday’s 64th running of the $250,000 Grade 2 has been lengthened to 1 1/8 miles from last year’s a mile, the sixth different distance since favored Twenty Thirty won the inaugural at 1 1/16 miles in 1945 during Gulfstream’s third season. The purse: $5,000.

The Florida Derby prep was not run in ’46 and ’48, but twice in ’47. After missing ’52, it has been held each year since ’53, when it was divided into two divisions for the first time.

This year’s race features several sophomore standouts, including Holy Bull runner-up Jackson Bend, who drilled four furlongs in 47 seconds on Feb. 13, the fastest of 42 works at the Palm Meadows Training Center.

Trainer Nick Zito has Jackson Bend on a similar path to Louisville as he did with his previous Kentucky Derby winners four years apart in the ’90s.

In ’91, Strike the Gold was runner-up in a Gulfstream allowance race before finishing second to Fly So Free in the Florida Derby. Then the son of Alydar won the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland before capturing the 117th Kentucky Derby by 1 3/4 lengths over Best Pal.

In ’94, Zito’s Go for Gin was second in the FOY before finishing out of the money to Holy Bull in the Florida Derby. Then the son of Comorant ran second to Irgun in the Wood Memorial before leading all the way on a sloppy Churchill Downs surface, defeating Strodes Creek by two lengths.

Trainer Todd Pletcher may send out two contenders: stakes-winning Eskendereya, who captured a Gulfstream allowance contest last month, and Aikenite, a troubled sixth in the Holy Bull.

A top contender is Buddy’s Saint, winner of the Grade 2 Remsen by nearly five lengths on Nov. 28, who has been training gangbusters at Gulfstream. The son of Saint Liam breezed six furlongs in 1:13 2/5 in his eighth work since the first of the year.
Other expected runners are Pleasant Prince and Positive Split, second and third respectively in an allowance race last month. Pleasant Prince went five furlongs in 1:00 1/5 handily at Gulfstream on Sunday while Positive Split covered the same distance on a muddy surface in a minute handily a day earlier.

Pulsion, runner-up to leading 3-year-old Lookin at Lucky in the Norfolk Stakes last fall at Oak Tre, before finishing 11th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, zipped six furlongs in 1:11 handily on Feb. 9.

Lost Aptitude, trying dirt for the first time after three victories on the turf, breezed five furlongs in 1:02 3/5 on Monday.

Two horses nominated for the FOY are heading to Fair Grounds for Saturday’s $300,000 Risen Star Stakes at 1 1/16 miles: Drosselmeyer and Tempted to Tapit.

Drosselmeyer has hit the board in all five starts, posting an impressive triumph in a Gulfstream allowance race at 1 1/8 miles in January. Tempted to Tapit broke his maiden last month by 11 1/2 lengths at a mile in the mud at Aqueduct.

The field for the Grade 2 is headed by Lecomte Stakes winner Ron the Greek, the morning line favorite with three victories in four starts. Others in the full field are Pletcher trainee Discreetly Mine, runner-up last year in two stakes at Belmont, and Stay Put, an allowance winner Feb. 1 at Fair Grounds.