02/17/2014 3:58PM

Gulfstream Park: Top Billing draws post 12 for Fountain of Youth; Commissioner favored

Barbara D. Livingston
Top Billing was made the 7-2 second choice on the morning line for Saturday's Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes after drawing post 12 in a 13-horse field.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – A year ago, trainer Shug McGaughey won the $400,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes from the rail with Orb. On Saturday, the Hall of Fame horseman will defend that title from the other end of the post-position spectrum after his Top Billing drew post 12 in a bulky field of 13 3-year-olds entered Monday for the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth.

Top Billing, who has won two of his three starts, including an entry-level allowance race in impressive fashion here last month, was originally to have been the morning-line favorite for the Fountain of Youth, according to track oddsmaker Ron Nicoletti. But after drawing post 12, Top Billing will be the second choice in the program at 7-2 behind Commissioner at 3-1.

Commissioner, like Orb last year, breaks from post 1 on Saturday. Joel Rosario will again ride Top Billing, while John Velazquez has the mount on Commissioner.

The rest of the Fountain of Youth field, in post-position order: We Miss Artie (Joe Bravo), Medal Count (Joe Rocco Jr.), Wildcat Red (Luis Saez), General a Rod (Javier Castellano), Casiguapo (Jose Lezcano), C. Zee (Edgard Zayas), Almost Famous (Calvin Borel), Best Plan Yet (Paco Lopez), Our Caravan (Corey Lanerie), Hesinfront (Abdiel Jaen), and East Hall (Juan Leyva).

The Fountain of Youth offers 50 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the winner under the system used by Churchill Downs to determine the field for the May 3 race should more than the maximum of 20 horses enter. The Fountain of Youth also offers 20 points to the runner-up, 10 for third place, and 5 for fourth.

McGaughey naturally was disappointed that Top Billing drew outside but said it won’t dissuade him from running in the Fountain of Youth.

“It’s not like he’s going to be on the lead,” McGaughey said. “Joel’s just going to have to get him over a bit going to the first turn. He had him a little wide to keep him out of the dirt when he won his last race. We overcame post 1 to win this race last year with Orb. Now, we’ll have to overcome post 12 to do it again this time.”

Top Billing breezed an easy half-mile in 50.40 seconds at Payson Park on Monday.

“I put him in company to sort of get him in the game, and I thought he went fine,” McGaughey said. “He just went an easy half-mile, out five-eighths. I didn’t want to overcook him.”

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

Trainer Todd Pletcher was relieved to have drawn better than Top Billing with both Commissioner and We Miss Artie on Monday.

“When the field got up to 13, you naturally fear drawing way outside,” Pletcher said. “But as I’ve said before, you can get good trips and bad trips from any post. Hopefully, we’ll be able to secure good position for both horses from their inside posts.”

Pletcher said he decided to give We Miss Artie, a Grade 1 winner on Polytrack at 2 and the runner-up in the Kitten’s Joy Stakes on turf in his 3-year-old debut, one more chance to prove his mettle on dirt.

“The horse has been training too well on dirt since the Kitten’s Joy not to give him another opportunity,” Pletcher said. “He impressed us again Sunday morning, and now is the time to see where we are with him. If he runs well, we’ll have a lot of dirt options.”

General a Rod, idle since capturing the Gulfstream Park Derby on New Year’s Day, is well drawn in post 5 for the Fountain of Youth. General a Rod turned in another in a series of good works since the Gulfstream Park Derby when going five furlongs in 1:00 here Sunday.

“We decided to skip the Holy Bull because I thought it would be asking too much of him to run in all these big races,” trainer Mike Maker said. “But he’s doing well, and Saturday will certainly be the acid test for him, to see if he fits with these types of horses.”

[Clocker Reports: Get Mike Welsch’s clocker reports from Gulfstream Park and Palm Meadows]

An honest pace is expected in the Fountain of Youth, with Wildcat Red, winner of the seven-furlong Hutcheson Stakes, and Almost Famous, who ran well after contesting an honest pace in the Holy Bull, in the lineup.

◗ A field of eight 3-year-old fillies also was drawn Monday for Saturday’s Grade 2 Davona Dale. The lineup is topped by Pletcher’s pair of Onlyforyou and Stopchargingmaria. They will take on a group that includes Abou, Luna Santa, Aurelia’s Belle, House Rules, and Penwith.