02/05/2011 3:22PM

Shackleford eyes Fountain of Youth after allowance victory

Bob Coglianese
Shackleford wins a Gulfstream allowance race Saturday under jockey Jesus Castanon.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – The Grade 2 Fountain of Youth, which already figures to attract a stellar field, may have picked up at least one and possibly two more starters after Shackleford defeated a much-troubled Casper’s Touch in Saturday’s third race at Gulfstream Park, a 1 1/8-mile, entry-level allowance test for 3-year-olds.

Shackleford, making just his third career start and first since winning his maiden in game fashion at Churchill Downs 10 weeks earlier, forced all the pace before edging away to a 2 1/4-length victory for jockey Jesus Castanon and trainer Dale Romans.

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

“He’s a first-class horse, he acts the part and he trains the part,” Romans said after sweating out a brief objection against Shackleford lodged by Paco Lopez aboard third-place finisher El Grayling before the result was made official. “We got a little behind with him last year, when he got sick, and had to push him a bit to make this race, so I think he will get better the next time.”

Romans said the Fountain of Youth on Feb. 26 would be a “strong possibility,” although he is keeping all his options open for Shackleford’s next start.

Casper’s Touch, bet to even money for his 3-year-old debut, suffered through an eventful trip that began when he broke a step slow and then steadied inside El Grayling entering the first turn. Casper’s Touch raced rankly under jockey Julien Leparoux when trapped along the rail behind the leaders and then had to take up abruptly when impeded by Shadow Warrior, who ducked in sharply nearing the eighth pole. Despite all the trouble, Leparoux was able to drive Casper’s Touch from between horses to finish a game second.

Casper’s Touch is one of two Kentucky Derby prospects trainer Ken McPeek currently has in his barn, along with Rogue Romance who is penciled in for his 3-year-old debut in Fair Grounds’ Risen Star on Feb. 19. Rogue Romance has worked brilliantly for his return, including five furlongs with Leparoux aboard in 58.47 seconds here Saturday morning while in company with stablemate Magnet Cove. Rogue Romance posted splits of 23.26 and 34.60, completing his final quarter in 23.87 under mild encouragement before galloping out six furlongs in 1:11.38.

“He worked awesome,” McPeek said. “It looks like we’re pretty much set for the Risen Star. If we waited and ran him here in the Fountain of Youth, Julien would have a conflict.”

Both Rogue Romance and Kathmanblu, who worked five-eighths in 1:00.16 alongside her stablemate Salty Strike later Saturday morning, are scheduled to fly to Louisiana on Feb. 16. Kathmanblu, winner of the Sweetest Chant Stakes on turf here last month, will return to dirt for her next start in Fair Grounds’ Grade 3 Rachel Alexandra Stakes on the Risen Star undercard.

Other area workers of note Saturday included trainer Kiaran McLaughlin’s 3-year-old prospect Soldat, who drilled an easy half-mile in 50.40 at Palm Meadows, and Spectacular Bid winner Determinato, five furlongs in 1:02, and Jackson Bend, four furlongs in 48.80, both at Calder.

Soldat is expected to return in the Fountain of Youth, while Determinato continues to prep for the seven-furlong, Grade 2 Hutcheson.

F-T to sponsor Fountain of Youth

Fasig-Tipton this year will again sponsor the $400,000 Fountain of Youth, which not only serves as a major prep on the road to the Kentucky Derby but also is a qualifying race for the Preakness 5.5 bonus. Fasig-Tipton’s Select 2-year-old in training sales will be held for the first time this season at the Palm Meadows training center in Boynton Beach on Thursday, March 3, with the under-tack show scheduled for Monday, Feb. 28.

Fasig-Tipton graduates to have won the 1 1/8-mile Fountain of Youth include Kauai King, Unbridled, Go for Gin, Spectacular Bid, Thunder Gulch, Tim Tam, Pleasant Colony, Swale, and Iron Liege.

◗ Yawanna Twist, making his first start since finishing fourth in the 2010 Preakness, rallied to a popular second-level optional claiming win Saturday. Ramon Dominguez rode Yawanna Twist for trainer Rick Dutrow.