02/22/2016 12:06PM

Zulu flying under the radar ahead of Fountain of Youth

Barbara D. Livingston
Awesome Speed worked a half-mile in 48.30 seconds at Palm Meadows on Sunday.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Under normal circumstances, an undefeated 3-year-old trained by Todd Pletcher heading into an important Kentucky Derby prep like Saturday’s Grade 2 Fountain of Youth would be attracting much of the attention in the days leading up to the race.

But such is not the case with Zulu, who is taking a backseat to the more-accomplished trio of Mohaymen, Awesome Banner, and Awesome Speed in the prerace chatter.

Zulu, a son of Bernardini, opened his career here this winter with two impressive victories, including a 7 1/4-length allowance triumph going seven furlongs over a sloppy track Jan. 15. He completed his preparation for the 1 1/16-mile Fountain of Youth on Sunday at Palm Beach Downs, breezing an easy half-mile in 48.21 seconds under regular rider John Velazquez, much to Pletcher’s satisfaction.

“He breezed by himself, got into a comfortable rhythm and clicked off 12s all the way around,” said Pletcher. “He looked good and galloped out well. We love what he’s done in his previous two starts. There are easier spots to shop around for, but the horse is 2 for 2 at Gulfstream, and we feel like we’ve got to test the waters and see where we stand even though we know it’s going to be a tall order.”

Zulu was one of three likely Fountain of Youth starters to work Sunday, along with Awesome Speed and Cherry Wine.

Awesome Speed, the winner of the one-mile Mucho Macho Man Stakes in his 3-year-old debut, worked a bullet half-mile in 48.30 at Palm Meadows.

“He went great,” said trainer Alan Goldberg, who was on hand for the work. “He galloped out in a minute and change and pulled up three-quarters in 1:14. He came back fine and not blowing. We’re ready.”

With Joel Rosario, who rode Awesome Speed in the Mucho Macho Man, sidelined with a broken wrist, Goldberg will turn the reins over to Irad Ortiz Jr. in the Fountain of Youth.

Cherry Wine, an impressive allowance winner here Jan. 9, worked five furlongs from the half-mile pole in 1:00.14 and galloped out six panels in 1:13.40 for trainer Dale Romans at Gulfstream Park on Sunday.