03/02/2009 12:00AM

Beethoven live in Fountain of Youth

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Horse racing is similar to other sports in that winners are regularly determined by matchups and conditions.

Just as a basketball team with a superior record might lose to a lesser club because it lacks the depth to cope with that team's full court press, the best horse doesn't have to win a horse race. Sometimes it is simply the one best suited to the makeup of the race.

In Saturday's Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Saturday, that horse could be Beethoven. A stalker in the one-mile race, he looks poised to get a great off-the-pace trip in a field inundated with speed.

Notonthesamepage, Rocketing Returns, Taqarub, and Quality Road - one-third of the 12-horse field - are regular front-runners, and others, such as Capt. Candyman Can and This Ones for Phil, are also quick and could get sucked into a fast pace.

That is not an issue for Beethoven. A three-time winner from six starts, he is at his best racing from behind fast splits - which was on display at Churchill Downs last fall.

Racing there twice in two-turn routes, he settled three-quarters of a length off demanding fractions before steadily advancing for narrow victories, including one in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club. Both times he showed determination to win photo finishes after appearing beaten in midstretch.

Making his first start as a 3-year-old in the Grade 3 Holy Bull at 1 1/8 miles Jan. 31, Beethoven was not as fortunate. Stuck with the outside post in a field of 10 with a short run to the first turn, he was caught four wide in traffic on the first turn. Then, as the leaders enjoyed a relatively easy time of things up front, jockey Calvin Borel sent Beethoven three wide after them on the second turn.

Making his move earlier than usual, Beethoven tired late and finished fourth, beaten 4 1/4 lengths. Nevertheless, he earned a career-best 91 Beyer Speed Figure, and now in his second start off a short layoff, a better performance is anticipated.

Granted, his 91 Beyer doesn't come close to the last-race figures of Notonthesamepage (114) and This Ones for Phil (116), but with those two bounce candidates, Beethoven could conceivably jump up to a 100 or so Beyer and win the Fountain of Youth.

Battaglia: Proceed Bee an overlay

Sticking with 3-year-olds racing two turns in stakes company, the $100,000 John Battaglia Stakes over Turfway Park's Polytrack surface is an intriguing betting race. WEBN stakes winner Parade Clown is in the eight-horse lineup, as is Fitzaslew, a Gulfstream Park invader from the red-hot stable of trainer Kenny McPeek.

They appear formidable, but their virtues are apparent, meaning they will start at short odds. Stakes winner Proceed Bee, on the other hand, could slip through the cracks and start as an overlay.

A gelded son of top synthetic sire Bernstein, Proceed Bee disappointed in his first start of the year, finishing fifth in the Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park. But that race came on dirt, not his preferred surface.

Proceed Bee is a horse that prefers racing on synthetic and turf tracks. His maiden win over Polytrack at Arlington last August was flashy, as was a triumph in the Grand Canyon Handicap on turf at Churchill Downs Nov. 29.

In the latter race, he beat Jack Spratt - subsequent winner of the Dania Beach Stakes at Gulfstream Park, and one of the 12 horses entered in the Fountain of the Youth.

Proceed Bee adds blinkers for the John Battaglia and appears poised for a strong effort at a square price.

Sunland: Scorewithcater's the play

In contrast to the John Battaglia, Saturday's $100,000 Borderland Derby at Sunland Park will be run on traditional dirt. Yet an analysis of synthetic form remains key - as four of the nine competitors are untested on dirt, having raced exclusively on all-weather tracks on the West Coast.

Despite being a closer that at first glance might appear to fit the profile of a synthetic performer - not a dirt horse - Scorewithcater is my choice to win the Borderland Derby.

A narrow, long-striding horse - not a smallish, accelerating type - he strikes me as a horse that will run as well, if not better, on dirt. And if that's the case, he should run these down.

In winning a first-level allowance at Santa Anita Jan. 29, he appeared beaten on the turn when in eighth place and under a drive, but he closed steadily for a head victory over eight opponents.