Updated on 09/17/2011 9:55AM

Battle of colts on the brink

Offlee Wild, a contender in the Fountain of Youth, works a fast five furlongs in 57.40 seconds on Wednesday morning. A win in the Holy Bull sparked interest in the colt.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - With Vindication out of the picture and both Sky Mesa and Toccet still weeks away from their 2003 debuts, the 3-year-old division can certainly use an infusion of fresh blood to stir up a little excitement on the road to this year's Kentucky Derby.

Saturday's $200,000 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park is the proper setting for one or more potential Derby horses to step forward. A field of nine promising 3-year-olds will square off at 1 1/16 miles in the Grade 1 race, which serves as the prep for the $1 million Florida Derby on March 15.

Whywhywhy is the most accomplished horse in the field, having won his first four career starts including Belmont's Grade 1 Futurity. But a 10th-place finish as the favorite in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile has cast some doubts about his ability to stay two turns, and he will need a big performance in the Fountain of Youth to return to the top of the division leader board.

Trainer Patrick Biancone wavered about whether to launch Whywhywhy's 3-year-old campaign in the Fountain of Youth or take the more conservative route and run him earlier in the day in the seven-furlong Hutcheson Stakes. He ultimately decided to find out if Whywhywhy will handle a route of ground and chose the Fountain of Youth.

Several other members of the well-matched lineup are standing on the brink of stardom, including Trust N Luck, Offlee Wild, and Ten Cents a Shine.

Trust N Luck moved into the limelight after earning a 110 Beyer Speed Figure in an 11-length victory in Calder's What a Pleasure Stakes. Trainer Ralph Ziadie immediately pointed him to the Fountain of Youth after that Dec. 14 victory and is extremely confident Trust N Luck can repeat the effort despite having been idle for two months.

"I'm not worried about whether he'll be fit enough," said Ziadie. "Training over the Calder track will take care of that. And I don't think he absolutely needs the lead to win. My only instructions to Cornelio [Velasquez] in the paddock will be to not get into a speed duel."

Offlee Wild went from anonymity to one of the leading Fountain of Youth contenders after rallying to a head victory over Powerful Touch when he made his two-turn debut in the Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes. He will try to follow in the footsteps of Booklet, who posted a Holy Bull-Fountain of Youth double last winter.

"He's such a game little horse," said Mark Guidry, who rode Offlee Wild to victory in the Holy Bull and is back aboard on Saturday. "He showed so much determination down the lane. We were a longshot that day, but I'm going in with the attitude that they've got to beat me now."

Offlee Wild worked five furlongs in a fast 59 seconds four days before the Holy Bull and went even faster, five furlongs in an official 57.40, here Wednesday morning, three days before the Fountain of Youth.

Ten Cents a Shine has won 2 of his 3 previous starts, including a dead-heat victory with the undefeated Senor Swinger in a first-level allowance race here Jan. 31. His lone defeat was a second-place finish behind the unbeaten Soto in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes in November.

Trainer Ken McPeek contemplated skipping the Fountain of Youth and sending Ten Cents a Shine directly to the Florida Derby. But after his colt worked five furlongs in 59.40 seconds with jockey Jerry Bailey aboard Monday, McPeek pronounced his horse fit and ready to go.

Ozzie Cat is in from the West Coast following his best race, a close second-place finish in the Grade 3 Golden Gate Derby.

Midway Cat won an entry-level allowance race in his 3-year-old debut here Jan. 18. he showed vast improvement in that race with the addition of both blinkers and Lasix.

Conservation stretches out off a sharp seven-furlong allowance victory and may provide pace pressure for Trust N Luck.

Seek Gold has lost his last two starts, including an eighth-place finish in the Holy Bull. Supah Blitz won a restricted stakes at Calder going seven furlongs at 2 but was third in the Sunshine Millions Dash on Jan. 25.

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