02/15/2008 12:00AM

Kentucky Bear owns top fig in Fountain of Youth

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - There will be some prominent names in the starting gate for next Sunday's Grade 2 Fountain of Youth - such highly regarded 3-year-olds as graded stakes winners Court Vision and Anak Nakal, and the late-striding Monba. But the horse owning the biggest Beyer Speed Figure in the field could be the least experienced member of the group. He is Kentucky Bear, who earned a 93 for his impressive 6 1/2-length maiden special weight win in his career debut here on Jan. 21.

Trainer Reade Baker confirmed Friday that Kentucky Bear would make his next start in the 1 1/8-mile Fountain of Youth, an ambitious jump no matter how much Beyer power he brings to the table.

"We're getting nervous about earning some graded money, which we need to do if we hope to get him to the Kentucky Derby," Baker said. "That's really the main reason we're going into this race."

Kentucky Bear has worked twice since his maiden win, including six furlongs in 1:14 at Palm Meadows on Sunday, and Baker said he'll work one more time prior to the Fountain of Youth.

"He's done very well since his first start and he'll get one more work, either five or six furlongs, on Sunday," said Baker. "We've received several offers to buy the horse, but we have no desire to sell at this point. The only offers we'd listen to right now would be to sell the breeding rights."

Kentucky Bear, a son of Mr. Greeley, made a quick move around the turn from just off the pace in his maiden win, and Baker said he'd like to see jockey Elvis Trujillo use a similar strategy in the colt's stakes debut.

"I think he'll run the same way despite stretching out a little further," said Baker. "He's very tractable, and as easily as he ran going a mile I think the distance should be within his limitations."

Nearly a dozen 3-year-olds are under serious consideration for the Fountain of Youth, this track's main prep for the $1 million Florida Derby on March 29. Along with Kentucky Bear, the list includes Adriano, Anak Nakal, Cool Coal Man, Court Vision, Elysium Fields, Golden Spikes, Make the Point, and Monba. The recently purchased Face the Cat is also a possible starter.

Cool Coal Man, a winner of 3 of his last 4 starts, including a 1o1/8-mile allowance race here on Jan. 26, worked four furlongs in 47.20 seconds at Palm Meadows on Friday. The work was the fastest of 58 at the distance on that morning's tab.

Cool Coal Man and Anak Nakal are both trained by Nick Zito.

Daaher works 'great'

Daaher turned in his first work since his seventh-place finish in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap earlier this month when he breezed a half-mile in 48 at Palm Meadows on Friday.

"He worked great, each quarter in 12," said trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. "He scoped clean, looks great, and has been moving well since the Donn - which still remains a big question mark.

"We'll nominate him to the Gulfstream Park Handicap and Stymie in New York on March 1 as well as to the New Orleans Handicap and Razorback Handicap the following week at the Fair Grounds and Oaklawn. He'll definitely run back in one of the four.

"We could ultimately decide to take him out of town, since he might have struggled in the heat and over this track in the Donn. And by going in a different direction, we could rule out those variables."

McLaughlin will be busy here next weekend when he sends out Zann and Stream of Gold in the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf.

Zann, beaten a neck in the Grade 1 Citation in his last start, was transferred to McLaughlin's barn earlier this winter. Stream of Gold, runner-up in the Grade 1 Turf Classic Invitational in September, closed out his 2007 campaign finishing second in Calder's Grade 2 W. L. McKnight Handicap.

A strong field is shaping up for the Gulfstream Park Turf. It also figures to include Breeders' Cup Turf runner-up Shamdinan, trainer Barclay Tagg's pair of Dave and Cougar Bay, and recent overnight handicap winner Dancing Forever. The Grade 1-placed Champs Elysees is also among the 27 horses nominated to the 1 3/8-mile race.