03/04/2017 8:42PM

Gunnevera bides his time en route to impressive Fountain of Youth win

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Gunnevera, ridden by Javier Castellano, wins the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes by 5 3/4 lengths.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Javier Castellano learned his lesson. Four weeks ago, in the Holy Bull, the four-time reigning champion jockey said he was too impatient with Gunnevera and believed he cost the colt his best chance. So, in the Grade 2, $400,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Saturday, Castellano was focused on taking his time before striking.

He aced the test. Gunnevera, given a patient ride by Castellano and benefitting from a swift early pace over a fast but dull surface, rallied for a runaway, 5 3/4-length victory in the Fountain of Youth, a race in which the favored Irish War Cry, the Holy Bull winner, faded to finish seventh, the latest favorite to falter – see Classic Empire, Mo Town, El Areeb – in recent Kentucky Derby preps.

Practical Joke, making his first start since the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, outfinished pacesetter Three Rules for second. Talk Logistics was another six lengths back in fourth, then came Lookin for Eight, Quinientos, Irish War Cry, Takaful, Made You Look, and Huracan Americo, who broke down and had to be euthanized.

Beasley was scratched in order to run in the Tampa Bay Derby next Saturday.

Gunnevera ($10.40) completed 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.25. He was aided by a sharp early pace set by Three Rules, who went the opening half-mile in 47.18 seconds. Three Rules was able to put away Irish War Cry, but first Practical Joke made a bold brush on the far turn, and then Gunnevera made his run. Gunnevera entered the lane outside Three Rules, who was on the rail, and Practical Joke, who was between runners, and bounded clear.

“Last time, I was a little too close to the pace,” Castellano said of the Holy Bull, in which he finished second. “It was too much last time. I learned my lesson. It paid off today. I could have chased the pace, but he won’t finish. There was a lot of speed today. I could take my time. The way it set up was perfect.

“At the three-eighths, he started picking them off. Last time, I tried to save some ground, and I had to check.” This time, Castellano kept Gunnevera in the clear, “and when he switched leads, he just exploded,” Castellano said.

“He’s maturing, maturing every time. He’s an old pro, like a 6-year-old.”

Gunnevera needed to maintain his composure after the race because the winner’s circle was chaotic, with winning trainer Antonio Sano receiving congratulations from seemingly everyone he’s ever met. Sano, based at Gulfstream Park West – a.k.a. Calder – and with one of the largest barns on this circuit, was confident the race shape of the Fountain of Youth would benefit Gunnevera.

“Last race, when he lost, he got bumped into the rail,” he said. “I knew he’d run big today. There’s was more speed.”

Sano said Gunnevera would return in the Grade 1 Florida Derby at Gulfstream on April 1. Both Sano and Castellano are natives of Venezuela, but they had never met until their careers brought them to the United States.

“I had heard of him because he would win training titles at one track, 19, 20 in a row, something crazy like that,” Castellano said.

Gunnevera, owned by Peacock Racing Stables, is a colt by Dialed In who has now won four times in eight starts. Last year, his wins included the Grade 3 Delta Downs Jackpot and the Grade 2 Saratoga Special. With the points he has earned in the Delta Jackpot plus his runner-up effort in the Holy Bull, combined with the 50 points he received for the Fountain of Youth, Gunnevera is safely in the field for the Kentucky Derby on May 6 at Churchill Downs.

Chad Brown, the trainer of Practical Joke, was happy with his colt’s comeback effort.

“He’s in play now, he has a race under his belt, he should move forward off it,” said Brown, who said “everything is on the table” regarding a final Kentucky Derby prep for Practical Joke.

“A lot depends on how the horse is training, who’s running where,” Brown said. “I think my horse made that big run into the turn, and he’s probably feeling the layoff a little bit. And a combination with Gunnevera really running a blinder. He was very dominant today.”

Irish War Cry was very disappointing. He had won all three of his prior starts, including the Holy Bull, but faltered badly in the final three furlongs.

“I wish maybe he settled a little more off the pace, perhaps, but I don’t want to make any excuses,” said his trainer, Graham Motion. “It looked like he was going pretty nicely. I can't really say what happened. He looked good, he looked fine. My instant first reaction is probably I ran him back too quick. It's hard to know. He’s done so well since his last start.”

– additional reporting by Mike Welsch

Michael 4 months ago
This was a very easy race to handicap, obvious winner.  Draw a line through the time, the track was cuppy and slow.  Gunn will give a good account of himself in Louisville.  Sano and Castellano?......I will take that all day long.   Watch-out Bob, Royal Mo is in your path....try and move him LOL!
Bruce Epstein 4 months ago
Talk about an Andy mortal lock ! what a gift this guy was
bobhessjr 4 months ago
Antonio Sano is a sharp horseman and a class act.  I wish him the best,
bobhessjr 4 months ago
Antonio Sano is a class act.  I wish him the best. 
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Leslie Burke Fernandes 4 months ago
get out of your mothers basement you like little boys
Harry Haller 4 months ago
You all know that three year colts in the spring are too young to be evaluated. This triple crown trail destroys the handicap division. Give these colts a chance to grow up. Everywhere else these colts would be handled more slowly, allowed to grow and heal between starts. The Derby needs to come down a notch or two and the triple crown spread out more. Rethinking history is called improvement; the modern horse is a differently bred animal now. Think what is best for the animal. 
Anonymous 4 months ago
can you imagine if they were not allowed to race at 2?
All races would be moved along ...
2 year old races would now be 3 year olds...
The Kentucky Derby trail would be for 4 year olds...
but we all know that will never happen. It's all about show me the money...NOW!!!
Joseph Donato 4 months ago
after reading these different perspectives on the race,I  am  of the  opinion  that class just out -shined the rest. GUNNEVERA proved to be the class of the field(he had the back class going in),no he showed more coming out! practical joke needed this one and three rules is tough but limited... IWC, until further notice is not as good as once perceived and it was as simple as him being challenged up front from the beginning. hey i was rooting for the jersey bred, but he turned out  just that !...JERSEY BRED!  i want to leave room for further judgement  for possible injuries that may have occurred during the race.   maybe they find something was amiss today when they walk him?
Ron Rios 4 months ago
I think you might be on to something, but instead of class, it seems like the horse that has the most races around one turn and been consistently running, proved to be the best today. I think, Brown, Pletcher just think they can rest their horses and just be ready after layoffs.... For Pletcher it never works
Joseph Donato 4 months ago
you meant to say " two turns"?
Anonymous 4 months ago

according to Motion he states that the horse simply bounced...maybe..High fig but it was an easy race. I figured there would be more speed and that GUNNEVERA's true colors would show...It's always impressive when they come from that far back and win by so much. He runs just like his daddy did. One big run from off pace except that GUNNEVERA can actually go 2 turns. 
Joseph Donato 4 months ago
bounced sh-mounced, i  dont buy it.... and i dont think the trainer does either. you think motion is going to wheel him back in four weeks someplace? i doubt it. not saying he cant be good down  road. but i am just handicapping derby prospects, so,  NEXT!
SebastianLubow 4 months ago
This 3 year old crop is throwing me for a loop. When are we going to start getting some consistency? This was a slow race with the runner the only one moving at the end. The rest looked like Refrigerator Perry running for a 2 point conversion in 1985.
Erin Casseday 4 months ago
Refrigerator Perry. Now there is a name I have not heard in  a long long time!!!! :)
Jack Armstead 4 months ago
Sebastian... you're right; there are no dominant "Bears" out there today.

The truth is that the Refrigerator (running for a 2 Point Conversion) would have had a tough time with how Gulfstream was playing.  

I am surprised with how chalky the Pick-6 was.  I bought a ticket for $2.40 and was alive to only Irish War Cry in Race 13.  My wife called complaining about when I'd be home (right after Race #11) and I knew that this was the "Kiss of Death" for me.  

I had bought one for the Teller too, and I wanted her to win... so bad. Had I spent $7.20 and included the #2 & #6, I would have hit it (11 w/6,9 w/7 w/2,3 w/4,5,6 w/8).

I was most impressed with the #6 and felt that he "needed a race."  I think Mr. Chad Brown has "Derby Fever" (Frankel always warned us, and; him).  His #9 horse in the New York Race ran well for a sprinter stretching out.  They BOTH have talent.
Anonymous 4 months ago
Come on Privman, benefiting from a fast early pace?   Really,  your writing is fundamentally flawed and that's sad.  Irish War cry walked on the lead in the Holy Bull and Gunnevera was the ONLY horse to close.  Now they go faster and Gunnevera is the ONLY horse to close and go 3 wide on the worst speed bias rail in racing and won for fun but he benefited from a fast early pace.  Why didn't 1, NOT ONE,  of the other horses benefit from the "fast early pace?"  So funny.   Maybe,  I don't know Privman, Gunnevera was just the best horse in the race.   Maybe,  I don't know Privman, maybe he benefited from being the BEST HORSE IN THE RACE.    Nope, let's give an incompetent reason and say he only won going 3 wide from way off the pace against the worst bias in American racing and still won.   Wow, nope, he was lucky,  get a clue Privman
Mike Lee 4 months ago
You're just another loser calling someone out hiding behind your anonymous handle..Big P***y!
Chuck Berger 4 months ago
While you"may" be correct in your analysis, why not let all of us know who you are?
It's "possible" that Jay is wrong, but at least he gives his opinion and doesn't hide under the asinine label of Anonymous.

mark 4 months ago
anonymous is totally spot on
the bigger issue are the bankrupt notions of track biases,trips as reasons for winning as some kind of accident when they do win, instead of giving total credit to the winning horse for just running faster-right
these handicapping ideas of track bias and trips are sheer nonsense and provide cowardly excuses for handicapping incompetence when the choices dont win.
calling it like it is
watchmaker,serling and their like are nothing but charlatans 
although ill give serling respect for his instincts on value and getting paid
Jack Armstead 4 months ago
Anonymous... this was a slow run edition of the Fountain of Youth.  The #7 &  #8 went fast early... then the #8 was exposed.  Irish War Cry was about 2 seconds faster in his prior race (1:42:30)... he just finally bounced.

The #2 horse had Javy on him and learned his lesson the last time.  I don't see where Jay Privman got anything "wrong" here.  You were probably one of the people that made the #8 horse 1-5 at one time.  He didn't look half as good as his last race.

This was more of a "Kiss of Death" than my wife jinxing my Pick 5 and Pick 6 tickets by calling/yapping at me after Race #11 (when I was alive in BOTH).  I was six deep in race 12 (on my Pick 5) and singled to the #8 in Race 13.

Life goes on... it's called horse racing and anything can and will happen.