03/03/2007 12:00AM

Scat Daddy noses Stormello

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Michael J. Marten/Horsephotos
Scat Daddy (left), under a vigorous ride by John Velazquez, gets up to win Saturday?s Grade 2 Fountain of Youth by a nose in the very last stride.

By MIKE WELSCH

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Trainer Todd Pletcher completed what he termed a career-best afternoon, even by his lofty standards, after Scat Daddy surged past Stormello in the final strides to post a nose decision in Saturday's Grade 2, $350,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park.

The win was the fifth on the card and third Grade 2 stakes victory for Pletcher, who earlier captured the Hutcheson with King of the Roxy and the Richter Scale Handicap with Half Ours.

Nobiz Like Shobiz finished third in the Fountain of Youth as the 2-5 favorite following an eventful trip.

"I'd have to say this was probably the biggest day of my career because of the three graded stakes races included in the five wins," said Pletcher, who also won five races and three stakes on the 2006 Florida Derby card and five races at Saratoga one day in August 2004.

Scat Daddy was forced very wide when Nobiz Like Shobiz ducked out on the opening turn of the 1 1/8-mile Fountain of Youth. Jockey John Velazquez allowed Scat Daddy to race just behind and outside Nobiz Like Shobiz while in midpack down the backstretch, continued four wide entering the stretch, and rallied in the final sixteenth to catch Stormello at the wire.

Stormello sprinted to command along the rail and resisted a long challenge from Adore the Gold before just failing in a game performance.

Nobiz Like Shobiz ducked out briefly on the opening turn, recovered to race three wide while within easy striking distance of the early leaders, but lost momentum when ducking in for several strides near the eighth pole. He came on again from between horses in late stretch only to fall a half-length shy of the winner. Adore the Gold was fourth.

Scat Daddy ran the 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.11 over a track that was lightning fast throughout the card. He paid $13.80.

"We decided the best way to reverse the last decision with Nobiz Like Shobiz was to track him the same way we did when we beat him in the Champagne," said Pletcher. "Taking the overland route was the only choice he had after being carried out on the first turn. He had to overcome a lot to do what he did, especially over a racetrack that appeared to favor inside speed earlier in the day."

Pletcher said Scat Daddy would return in the $1omillion Florida Derby on March 31.

Trainer Barclay Tagg said he was at a loss to explain why Nobiz Like Shobiz ran so erratically in spots during the Fountain of Youth.

"I thought I had him all straightened out," said Tagg. "I still think he's a very good horse and this doesn't change my plans. Not yet. We'll see how he comes out of the race, but at the moment I'd say we'll probably go to the Wood."

The Wood Memorial is the major Kentucky Derby prep race at Aqueduct on April 7.