02/19/2011 4:29PM

Racing Aptitude gets chance to see if he's as good on dirt as grass in Fountain of Youth

Jim Lisa Photos
Racing Aptitude,winning the Arthur Appleton Juvenile Turf, will experiment on dirt in the Fountain of Youth.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Trainer Howie Tesher is hoping history might repeat itself when he starts Racing Aptitude in Saturday’s Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park.

Eighteen years ago, Tesher sent out the 35-1 Bull Inthe Heather to finish second in the Fountain of Youth as a prelude to his 29-1 shocker in the Grade 1 Florida Derby. Racing Aptitude figures to be a similar longshot here Saturday.

KENTUCKY DERBY NEWS: Track all the 3-year-olds on the Triple Crown trail

“I know he’s a grass horse but the owner wants to take a chance on the dirt in the Fountain of Youth,” said Tesher. “And if there’s one thing I’ve learned in this business it’s that the owner is always right.”

Racing Aptitude is a homebred son of Aptitude owned by Donald Dizney. He is coming off a pair of unlucky trips to open his 3-year-old campaign over the turf in Calder’s Tropical Park Derby and the Dania Beach here 15 days later. Racing Aptitude is already a stakes winner, having cruised to a 2 1/2-length triumph in Calder’s Arthur Appleton Juvenile Turf at 2.

Racing Aptitude shipped over from his Calder base to work five furlongs in 1:00 under jockey Jose Lezcano on Saturday.

“We all saw what happened to him in his last two races,” said Tesher. “I don’t know if he’s as legit on dirt as grass and obviously the competition will be tougher in this race but if worse comes to worse we can always go back to the grass.”

Tesher said he was happy with the way Racing Aptitude worked over the local strip.

“He’s fit enough training over the deeper track at Calder but I wanted to bring him over to work this morning because he gets a little nervous shipping,” said Tesher. “I just wanted him to finish well and that’s exactly what he did.”

Tesher said the circumstances surrounding Racing Aptitude’s appearance in the 2011 Fountain of Youth are not unlike those leading up to Bull In the Heather’s unlikely run here during the winter of 1993.

“When Bull ran in this race I felt kind of the same way I do about Racing Aptitude other than he wasn’t a grass horse like this one,” said Tesher. “I thought he was good but just didn’t know how good he was. After he ran second in the Fountain of Youth, I told the owner he’d win the Florida Derby and I don’t say those kinds of things too often. And after he won the guy immediately said `We’re going to the Derby.’ ”

Bull Inthe Heather was owned at the time by Arthur Klein.

“People kept coming to us with offers to buy this horse and my owner kept turning them down,” said Tesher. “I got an offer from someone in England for $2 million and he wanted three. They raised it to $2.2 million and I told him to take the money but he said no. He said that he was a gambler and wanted to go to the Derby.”

Tesher said Bull In the Heather trained well up to the Kentucky Derby but that he received some discouraging news from jockey Jerry Bailey after the first race on that day’s card.

‘“Jerry told me I had no chance in the Derby, that the track was too hard and a closer like Bull couldn’t win,” said Tesher.

Bailey was right as Bull Inthe Heather struggled home 11th, nearly 15 lengths behind Sea Hero.

“I asked my owner about a month later if he was sorry he didn’t sell the horse when he had the chance,” Tesher recalled. “He thought about it for a minute and said no. That he could never replace the feeling he got going to the Derby. Two years later he was in Las Vegas, dead broke, living on $25 a day.”

◗ Racing Aptitude was one of several potential Fountain of Youth starters to work on Saturday. He was joined at Gulfstream by Casper’s Touch who went five furlongs in 1:00.80 and Soldat who zipped a half mile in :47.60 at Palm Meadows.

Other prospective Fountain of Youth starters include Shackleford, Gourmet Dinner, and To Honor And Serve.