02/22/2014 7:26PM

Gulfstream Park: Wildcat Red wins thrilling edition of Fountain of Youth Stakes

Tom Keyser
Wildcat Red (right) and jockey Luis Saez win the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes by a head over General a Rod and jockey Javier Castellano on Saturday at Gulfstream Park.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Wildcat Red looks like a sprinter, and he certainly has brilliant sprinter’s speed. That speed, utilized to its fullest over a track kind to his style, helped propel him to victory at Gulfstream Park on Saturday in the Grade 2, $400,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes, whose thrilling stretch drive will be overshadowed by debate over how big a role the track played in the outcome.

Wildcat Red and General a Rod went like Jaipur and Ridan from the start of the race and set sharp fractions of 23.03 seconds, 46.25, and 1:10.13 for the first six furlongs. And they slugged it out all the way to the wire, with Wildcat Red winning by a head over General a Rod in 1:41.85 for 1 1/16 miles on the fast main track.

It was difficult all day for horses to make up ground, so the third-place finish by the favored Top Billing, who rallied from last in the 12-horse field, was meritorious. He finished two lengths behind General a Rod.

East Hall was fourth and was followed by Medal Count, Commissioner, Our Caravan, We Miss Artie, Best Plan Yet, C. Zee, Almost Famous, and Hesinfront.

Wildcat Red ($11) was the fourth choice in the field. He was coming off an eye-catching victory in the seven-furlong Hutcheson Stakes on Feb. 1. The Fountain of Youth was his first try around two turns. He has won four times in six starts, with two seconds, with every start coming at Gulfstream.

Victory in the Fountain of Youth was worth 50 points under the system used by Churchill Downs to determine the field for the May 3 Kentucky Derby, and that amount should be more than enough to get into the field.

“We proved that we were right, that the horse could get the distance,” said Jose Garoffalo, who trains Wildcat Red for the Honors Stable Corp. of Josie Delfino. “Now, we can think seriously about the Derby.”

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

Before that, though, Wildcat Red will run here in next month’s Florida Derby. He was ridden by Luis Saez in the Fountain of Youth but might need a new rider for the Florida Derby since Saez rides Cairo Prince, who won the Holy Bull Stakes last month and is the early favorite for the Florida Derby.

The track favored horses on or near the lead all day, and it was difficult for late-running horses to rally. However, the tenacity of Wildcat Red cannot be disputed. He was hounded by General a Rod, even was headed at one point, and would not surrender.

Wildcat Red and General a Rod had a similar battle in the one-mile Gulfstream Park Derby on Jan. 1, with General a Rod winning by a head.

“The race was a copy of the last one, the Gulfstream Park Derby, but this time I got lucky, and I beat him,” Garoffalo said.

Garoffalo purchased Wildcat Red, a colt by D’Wildcat, for just $30,000 as a 2-year-old in training through the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. last year.

“I go to the sales with a limited budget,” Garoffalo said. “I liked everything about the horse – the way he breezed, his athletic body, and, more than anything, his attitude. I got lucky that he exactly fit the budget.”

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

Had General a Rod won the race, he would have given jockey Javier Castellano his seventh win on the card, which would have tied the Gulfstream Park record set by Jerry Bailey in 1995.

Top Billing was making his stakes debut after winning twice in three starts, including in allowance company here Jan. 25.

“I thought he ran good,” said Shug McGaughey, who trains Top Billing. “We ended up inside, saving ground and coming around the turn. I thought we had them. I knew we had the rest of them, and they kept running, and I think those were two pretty nice horses, too – especially the winner.

“The racetrack has been carrying speed for a while, and we were the only one finishing. I’m pleased with what I saw. I think we’ll stay here for the Florida Derby if things go right. He’s run good over this track. I was disappointed he didn’t win, but it was a good effort and an effort I think we can go ahead on.”

– additional reporting by Mike Welsch


Mark More than 1 year ago
Conquest already ran down a rod going shorter on the derby surface and has more tactical speed than either shug horse with all the breeding to get the Belmont let alone derby.
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
With all the speed heading to Derby as of now from both coasts...I like both Top Billing and Honor Code with their styles...also Cairo Prince.
John Flynn More than 1 year ago
I wish the Connections the Very Best. But, Churchill has a Very Long Stretch & does not favor Frontrunners. . Baffert - Got Lucky & pulled it off with "War Emblem".
jttf More than 1 year ago
these two frontrunners ran like the two leaders in the withers. can you say bounce ?
Greg More than 1 year ago
Top Billing ran as expected, just behind the sprinters, TB will get the 11/4 the others will not.
Walter More than 1 year ago
I still feel bad for the player who got DQd from the Rainbow 6. A coin flip call in my opinion, it could've gone either way. It's just terrible that a million dollar score was on the line. So sorry
Ray Sousa More than 1 year ago
this was obviously a bias aided win but im still impressed by this colts tenacity hes a racehorse.probably wont get derby distance but will be a major force at 7f to a mile. TOP BILLING was the only one in this field who should have any derby aspirations.
Scott More than 1 year ago
I agree with the article that you have to be impressed with the tenacity of Wildcat Red, but there is no way that his style will translate to Derby glory. Churchill Downs doesn't tend to favor the speed horses. Short of an unchallenged lead (see War Emblem in 2002), the frontrunner hasn't been able to win in the last 15 years. The best finishes I can remember for the pacesetter after War Emblem's win is Lionheart (2nd in 2004), Hard Spun (2nd in 2007) and of course Bodmeister's valiant try in 2012. It's worth noting that none of these 3 were pressed on the early lead either. Most of the time that is not the case. Does anyone think that Wildcat Red would be able to be pressed at Churchill like he was in the FOY and finish even in the top 3? Top Billing was impressive to me making up a ton of ground on a track that wasn't giving it. With his breeding he seems to be the horse to really watch as a Derby Prospect out of this race. However, there are reasons to be critical of him from this race. First and foremost, the track was favoring speed all day, so why would his jockey not get him closer early. The answer is likely that he lacked the tactical speed to do so. Certainly not a deal breaker for a Derby Prospect, but possibly a concern for a horse that might be targeting the Florida Derby as his final prep race and will likely need the points. The second issue is smaller, but at the top of the stretch he seemed like he would run right by the front runners and he flattened out for some reason. Was it a matter of the frontrunners finishing strong or was his burst complete? This could just be an issue of timing the move, but it will definitely be something to watch for in his next race. The fact is he was closing hard and then failed to finish. Even with the clear speed bias, the race was entertaining. I loved Wildcat Red's chances in this race from the get go and now wonder if he can carry his speed to 9F's. I certainly wouldn't love his chances on a fair playing track, but if Gulfstream favors the speed again, then he has to be taken seriously.
Hail No More than 1 year ago
Good post.. When you say "tenacity", I immediately think of Spend a Buck, and then he skips the Preakness for a Brennan Multi million bonus, that was the most tenacious performance burned into my memory, doggedly pursued by El Basco and Crème Fraich (sp) the whole way around that mile and a .25
barbara oconnor More than 1 year ago
I just think top billing and his jockey did exactly what the trainer wanted them to do and that is prep him for a much larger race? I do not know how many points is on the line in the Florida derby but I do know that you can expect a much improved race from a horse who makes a big move in the stretch. How many lengths did he gain in the last quarter? You have to realize that experience is the best teacher, you can workout on the track all you want and it means nothing unless you can get the horse to respond as you want them too. How do know where he is at until you put them to the test, a smart poker player is not going to reveal his hand at the first ante, but he will do what he can to enhance the pot before revealing what he holds. Good trainers and owners are much the same. What the public interprets as a defeat is nothing more than training and building the pot.
B More than 1 year ago
They are gems of consistency and obviously talented, but I just cannot see either of them winning at a mile and a quarter. I would love to see them face each other again though. They are clearly very close in talent and the two times they have faced each other have been thrillers. Nice little rivalry to watch if they stay on the same path. Read that Wildcat Red is headed to the Florida Derby. Hope General a Rod (terrible name) joins him. Would be great for racing if these two were as strong at a mile and a quarter as they were at a mile and a sixteenth, but again, I & apparently many others, doubt it.
jaybern1 More than 1 year ago
General a Rod is one of the worst names of all time.
Hail No More than 1 year ago
What about "Isitingood?"
TEDK215 More than 1 year ago
the owners of this horse should only work this horse between now and the derby.