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Race fills for War Pass's 2008 debut
HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - There were 12 horses entered on Thursday for the Grade 2, $350,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes on Sunday at Gulfstream Park, but fans who come to the track will want to stick around at least another half-hour to see the best 3-year-old racing on the card.
War Pass, the champion 2-year-old male of last year, will make his first start since the Breeders' Cup Juvenile in the race following the Fountain of Youth, a one-mile overnight stakes race called the Silver Series Purse. It will be the 10th race on an 11-race card.
War Pass drew post 5 in a field of six in the $60,000 race. A winner of all four of his starts last year, War Pass is the 2-5 favorite on the early line set by Gulfstream's Chuck Streva.
Trainer Nick Zito said he wants to use Sunday's race as a prep for next month's Grade 3, $300,000 Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs. He wants War Pass to have three races this year in advance of the Kentucky Derby on May 3.
"I'm excited like everybody else to get started," Zito said Thursday afternoon at Gulfstream Park. "I'm happy the race went."
Zito entered War Pass for a similar race on Saturday, but it drew just three runners and was not carded by racing secretary Bill Couch, who is serving his first season at Gulfstream, replacing Dave Bailey. As insurance to help boost the size of the field, Zito also entered stablemate Web Gem in the Silver Series.
Zito had been assured by Gulfstream's racing office earlier in the week that the race would go, but grew anxious Thursday morning after Saturday's race failed to fill on Wednesday.
"I would have preferred to go Saturday," Zito said Thursday morning.
Zito will be busy Sunday. He has Anak Nakal and Cool Coal Man in the Fountain of Youth.
Large field for Fountain of Youth
The surprising entries of Halo Najib and Z Humor, both owned by Ahmed Zayat's Zayat Stables, helped swell the field for the Fountain of Youth to 12 when entries were taken Thursday morning.
Zayat also owns Court Vision, who is the 3-1 favorite on Streva's early line. That gives Zayat three entries in the field, all of whom will race as separate betting interests. Court Vision will carry top weight of 122 pounds in the Fountain of Youth.
Both Court Vision and Z Humor are trained by Bill Mott. Halo Najib is trained by Dale Romans.
If Z Humor races, he will be returning to action only eight days after a fifth-place finish in the Sam Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs. ZoHumor washed out badly in the paddock before that race.
"You've got to get them back over there and run them again until they become seasoned enough to handle it," Mott said. "He got the first-race jitters out of his system."
Halo Najib would be returning just 13 days after a victory in the Darley Ocala Breeders' Sale Championship, a non-betting stakes race held at the Ocala Training Center the day before the OBS 2-year-olds in training sale. After that race, Romans said Halo Najib would be pointed for the Grade 2, $500,000 Lane's End Stakes at Turfway Park on March 22.
Halo Najib was third in the Hutcheson Stakes here earlier in the meet. Last year, he finished second to Court Vision in the Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs.
Zayat also owns Z Fortune, the Risen Star Stakes runner-up, and JoBe K, a recent allowance winner at Fair Grounds. Both of those colts are under consideration for the Grade 2, $600,000 Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds on March 8, or the Grade 2, $300,000 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn on March 15.
The Fountain of Youth is run at 1 1/8 miles, so there is a short run to the first turn on Gulfstream's main track, which often compromises the chances of horses with outside posts. If all 12 run, the outside three spots would belong, in order, to Halo Najib, Make the Point, and Adriano.
The rest of the field, from the rail out, is Cool Coal Man, Golden Spikes, Court Vision, Kentucky Bear, ZoHumor, Ready Set, Monba, Anak Nakal, and Elysium Fields.
Violette fillies coming to fore
Trainer Rick Violette Jr. sent out Senior Rita Lady to a front-running debut win Wednesday, and he stands a terrific chance to win another maiden race with another 3-year-old filly Saturday when Anachronism starts in the 10th and final race.
Anachronism, by Yonaguska, rallied to finish second in a fast race in her debut Jan. 31 after breaking poorly. She is stretching out from six furlongs to seven.
"She did everything but win," Violette said at his barn at the Palm Meadows training center Thursday morning. "She took dirt, split horses, and galloped out really well. She finished 17 lengths in front of the fourth horse. The only thing I'm concerned about is that it's a little quick back, 23 days. And I hear Albertrani likes his filly."
Violette was referring to Just Regal, a Pulpit filly who will be making her debut for Tom Albertrani.
Also debuting in the 10th race is A.P. Fortune, an A.P. Indy filly trained by Michael Matz.
"She's a real sweetheart," Matz said as he fed A.P. Fortune a mint at his Palm Meadows barn. "She's probably going to need a start. She was a late foal, a June foal. She's a typical A.P. Indy who will probably need two turns."
Violette said Senior Rita Lady, a daughter of Fusaichi Pegasus, will likely come back in a first-level allowance race.
"I'll be a little conservative," Violette said. "She showed a lot more speed than I thought she would. I thought she'd run well, but I wasn't sure how fit she was. That race should do her a world of good."
Boogie Boggs returns for Zito
Boogie Boggs, last seen in last year's Florida Derby, was entered in a one-mile allowance race on Thursday, but Zito scratched him out of that race after he drew the rail. He subsequently got a post much more to Zito's liking in Saturday's sixth race, a first-level allowance going seven furlongs.
"Number 5 going seven-eighths is better than 1 going a mile," Zito said.
Boogie Boggs won his first start at Saratoga in August 2006, but was winless in three starts last year before going to the sidelines.
Better Talk Now heading to Dubai
At age 9, Better Talk Now has been around the country. Now he's going halfway around the world. His trainer, Graham Motion, on Thursday said Better Talk Now would make his next start in the $5 million Dubai Sheema Classic on March 29 in the United Arab Emirates.
"He's doing great," Motion said at his Palm Meadows barn. "Going to Dubai is something I always wanted to do, but it never worked out. I usually give him a rest at the end of the year, but he ran so little last year that I didn't want to stop on him. He's going to Dubai a relatively fresh horse."