02/21/2013 2:25PM

Fountain of Youth: Violence puts Pletcher's drive to Kentucky Derby in high gear

Tom Keyser
Violence, here working outside stablemate Palace Malice at Palm Meadows, can earn 50 Kentucky Derby points in the Fountain of Youth.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – With seven of the top 13 3-year-olds on Daily Racing Form’s Derby Watch in his barn, Todd Pletcher has a problem any other trainer not named Bob Baffert would love to have – keeping his Kentucky Derby hopefuls separated while on the quest to amass as many qualifying points as possible for the main event on May 4.

With that in mind, Pletcher has entered only one of his leading Derby prospects, Violence, in Saturday’s $400,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park. And in this case, one figures to be enough.

[GULFSTREAM PARK: Get PPs, watch Saturday's full card live]

The Grade 2 Fountain of Youth drew a bulky field of 11 3-year-olds, although at least one, Sky Captain, was expected to scratch. The winner of the 1 1/16-mile Fountain of Youth will receive 50 Derby qualifying points, the runner-up 20, with another 10 points awarded to the third-place finisher and 5 to the fourth.

The Fountain of Youth highlights a 12-race program that also includes the Grade 2 Davona Dale for 3-year-old fillies, featuring the Pletcher-trained once-beaten Dreaming of Julia, and the Grade 3 Canadian Turf. The main event will be broadcast live on HRTV at 5:35 p.m. Eastern.

Violence enters the Fountain of Youth undefeated in three starts, with victories at 2 in both the Grade 2 Nashua and Grade 1 CashCall Futurity. A son of Medaglia d’Oro owned by Black Rock Thoroughbreds, Violence has 10 qualifying points for the Derby by virtue of his 1 1/4-length victory over Fury Kapcori in the CashCall, a race decided over the synthetic surface at Hollywood Park Dec. 15.

Violence has trained forwardly for his return at Pletcher’s winter base at Palm Meadows, where he’s recorded five works since Jan. 20, including a bullet five-eighths in 1:00.20 on Sunday.

“He’s done really well, he’s trained great,” Pletcher said. “It’s time to get started. The race kind of grew a bit at entry time, but we got a good post so I’m happy with that. He’s an experienced horse. He ran in a big field in California, so he’s already used to that. He’s also a versatile horse, tractable, so we can kind of put him where we need to.”

Violence will break from post 3 under jockey Javier Castellano and will carry high weight of 122 pounds under the allowance conditions of the race.

Violence is one of five horses in the Fountain of Youth field to have already earned qualifying points for the Derby. Falling Sky also picked up 10 points for his victory in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs. California invader He’s Had Enough has six points, four of which came for finishing second behind 2-year-old champion Shanghai Bobby in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, while Speak Logistics and Joshua’s Comprise received one apiece for their fourth-place finishes in the Sam Davis and Grade 3 Holy Bull, respectively.

Falling Sky was purchased privately after defeating another of the Fountain of Youth contenders, Majestic Hussar, in a 6 1/2-furlong entry-level allowance race here on Dec. 15. He then returned quick dividends when leading throughout and outlasting Dynamic Sky by a neck to capture the 1 1/16-mile Sam Davis. The 92 Beyer Speed Figure that Falling Sky earned for the triumph matches the number posted by Violence for his win in the CashCall.

Falling Sky’s biggest problem on Saturday may be his post position, as he is scheduled to break from post 10, with a very short run to the clubhouse turn. Should Sky Captain scratch, Falling Sky would move in one slot to post 9. In the Sam Davis, he broke from post 7.

“He’s got enough gate speed to put himself in a good spot, so I’m not that concerned about the post,” said Falling Sky’s trainer, John Terranova. “He drew outside at Tampa where there’s also a short run to the turn, and it didn’t affect him in the Sam Davis so I don’t think it should be a problem.”

There are several speed horses in the Fountain of Youth lineup, but they all may find themselves chasing Majestic Hussar, who bounced back from his setback at the hands of Falling Sky with a wire-to-wire victory over another of Pletcher’s Derby candidates, Palice Malice, in a seven-furlong entry-level allowance race decided over a sloppy track here on Jan. 19. Majestic Hussar is the only member of the Fountain of Youth field without any experience around two turns.

He’s Had Enough, who was cross-entered Saturday at the Fair Grounds in the Risen Star, is the only horse from outside south Florida to ship in for the Fountain of Youth. Based on the West Coast with last year’s Kentucky Derby-winning trainer, Doug O’Neill, He’s Had Enough was beaten just a head in the BC Juvenile but was never a factor when finishing nine lengths behind Violence in the CashCall.

Cerro and Orb won split divisions of a 1 1/8-mile optional claiming race here on Jan. 26, with Cerro posting the faster time by nearly a full second. Cerro led throughout from his advantageous inside post but over a track that appeared deeper near the rail and did not favor front-runners for the most part.

Trainer Graham Motion had originally planned on returning Cerro to the turf for the Grade 3 Palm Beach on March 3 but has opted instead to keep the Irish-bred on dirt. The Palm Beach, although graded, does not offer any Derby qualifying points.

“We have to bear in mind the points,” said Motion. “If we go to the Palm Beach, we’ll be putting all our eggs in one basket in his next start.”

Speak Logistics would likely have bettered his fourth-place finish in the Sam Davis if not for being forced to take up sharply inside Falling Sky while attempting to challenge the leader near the quarter pole in his first start since finishing seventh in the BC Juvenile.

[ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays]