Updated on 09/16/2011 6:50AM

Whose turn to shine?

Michael J. Marten/Horsephotos
Harlan's Holiday, with exercise rider Helen Pitts, is the favorite, but the presence of several other improving 3-year-olds makes Saturday's Fountain of Youth an intriguing race.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Booklet and Harlan's Holiday, who finished one-two in last month's Holy Bull Stakes, renew their budding rivalry in Saturday's $200,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park, but they will be severely tested by a number of rapidly improving runners.

Of the eight entered in the first Grade 1 race of the year for 3-year-olds, six are coming off victories, five in races at this track last month. Their trainers are hoping they can take a significant step towards next month's Florida Derby, and eventually the Kentucky Derby.

But to merely focus on this 1 1/16-mile race as it pertains to the first Saturday in May would be folly, since the Fountain of Youth is an exceptional race on which to gamble.

Harlan's Holiday, who was the odds-on choice in the Holy Bull, again figures to be the favorite. And while his consistency - four wins and three seconds in seven starts - makes him difficult to oppose, there will be enticing prices on several of his rivals, making exacta plays tempting even for those who think Harlan's Holiday is a solid choice.

The Fountain of Youth is the 11th race on a 12-race card that begins at 1 p.m. Eastern. The race will be televised by ESPN. The card is outstanding, with another Grade 1 stakes race - the $200,000 Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup Handicap for long-distance turf horses - and two allowance races for 3-year-olds. There also is a concert, beginning at 2:30, with Greg Allman.

Harlan's Holiday, the fourth-ranked prospect on Daily Racing Form's Derby Watch, was fanned wide throughout in the Holy Bull, his first start in 2 1/2 months. He has worked strongly since, including a five-furlong breeze on Feb. 5 that was the best of 22 at the distance that day. Trainer Ken McPeek is removing blinkers for this race.

McPeek and jockey Tony D'Amico are hoping that Harlan's Holiday is the first half of a successful weekend parlay. McPeek and D'Amico will also team with Repent in Sunday's Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds.

Booklet, like Harlan's Holiday, has been remarkably consistent. The Holy Bull, his first start since being acquired by owner John Oxley and trainer John Ward Jr., was his fifth win in six career starts. Jorge Chavez rides Booklet for the first time, replacing the embattled Eibar Coa.

Booklet and Harlan's Holiday carry top weight of 122 pounds, conceding two to six pounds to their rivals.

Stephentown, who overcame a rough trip to beat allowance runners last time out, has a significant following here and should be no worse than the third choice. "He checked the whole way. A lot of horses would have spit it, but when the hole opened up, he responded," said his trainer, Tony Reinstedler. "I don't know how good he is. He's got to prove it.

But he has all the tools." Stephentown is adding Lasix for the first time.

Grey Beard, like Stephentown, won a 1 1/16-mile allowance race on Jan.9, and though his trip was less eventful, he did, in fact, run faster.

That was his first start with blinkers. He worked impressively here on Monday, and he benefited by drawing the rail.

Political Attack made a successful switch from turf to dirt when scoring a front-running victory in the Tropical Park Derby at Calder on Jan. 1.

He has won three of his last four starts.

Blue Burner remained unbeaten in three starts with an allowance win at Gulfstream on Jan. 3, his first race in six months. Like Stephentown, he gets Lasix for the first time.

Speed Hunter is trying two turns for the first time after defeating allowance runners going seven furlongs on Jan. 19. He, along with Booklet and Political Attack, figures to set an honest early pace.

Maybry's Boy also is trying two turns for the first time. He won the Spectacular Bid Stakes on opening day, but was a disappointing fourth when favored in the Hutcheson Stakes on Feb. 2. He must overcome the outside post position.

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