Fountain of Youth Stakes
COUNTDOWN REWIND: FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH
By Jeremy Plonk
Date: Saturday, February 23, 2013
Track: Gulfstream Park
Kentucky Derby Points Awarded: 50-20-10-5
Distance: 1 1/16 miles (2 turns)
HANDICAPPERS’ RECAP: With the top three finishers from the Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes bypassing the middle leg of Gulfstream Park’s sophomore series, nearly half of the nine-horse lineup stepped up in class off of a maiden or allowance race. Unbeaten Grade 1 CashCall Futurity winner VIOLENCE (Todd Pletcher) stood a deserving, odds-on favorite based on his resume and apparent class edge. Longshot Breeders’ Cup Juvenile runner-up HE’S HAD ENOUGH (Doug O’Neill) added some name recognition, but hasn’t come close to expectations since. So without a clear second choice and proliferation of allowance and maiden performers, this race proved ripe for a class riser if VIOLENCE could be upended. And it was the rallying Jan. 26 allowance winner ORB (Shug McGaughey) who took measure for the upset in earning his third straight score at a mile or more.
ON THE CLOCK: The Fountain of Youth simply was too fast up front. The second-quarter split of 22.34 cooked the race as MAJESTIC HUSSAR (Eddie Kenneally) ran off on the backstretch in his first two-turn bid. When the second quarter is decidedly faster than the first (this one was about 4 lengths quicker), it’s a recipe for a meltdown. To the absolute credit of the inside speed bias at Gulfstream for 1 1/16 miles, pace attendees MAJESTIC HUSSAR and VIOLENCE still wound up among the top four placings. The Trakus data indicates ORB was the only horse to shade 27 seconds the final quarter-mile of this race, displaying the late toll the pace took on even the chasers and apparent closers. The final time of 1:42.24 stacked up .06 faster than the same-day Davona Dale for 3-year-old fillies, and this race was more than 2 lengths faster than eventual Belmont Stakes winner Union Rags’ tally here a year prior.
THE EYE TEST: Even in his third straight win, ORB remained a horse who looks better on paper than he does in action. This is a lumbering kind of runner who won’t dazzle your eyes, but you walk away from the track saying, “I’ll be darned; he did it again.” With some horses you need to put the glitz meter away and just assess the accomplishments, and ORB now has become that for me. You don’t close to win twice in two-turn routes during the Gulfstream meet without impressing. While you can say the pace set things up for him in the Fountain of Youth, it was just the opposite in his allowance win when there was zero pace in front of him and he won in nearly identical fashion. Obviously VIOLENCE deserved tremendous credit for his runner-up performance chasing a wicket pace. Jockey Javier Castellano began riding him with intent 3 1/2 furlongs from the wire, so this was a sustained drive and he didn’t back away, but rather got caught. SPEAK LOGISTICS (Eddie Plesa) ran a very similar race to his trip in the Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs and simply found these horses a couple of lengths better than those rivals. CERRO has sustained router’s speed, but is not a blazer, and found himself in chase and fade mode in a race shape that did not play to his strong suit.
PROJECTING THE FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH FORWARD: A fractured sesamoid discovered the morning after the race has shelved VIOLENCE for the remainder of the Triple Crown trail and quite possibly ended his racing career. ORB moves down the line as a very legitimate prospect, one whose 50 points most likely secures his position the Kentucky Derby 139 starting gate. Trainer McGaughey will aim for either the Florida Derby or the Wood Memorial back home in New York. The barn’s two most recent Derby starters, Easy Goer in 1989 and Saarland in 2002, both used the Wood Memorial as their final prep. But note the Florida Derby’s calendar position has shifted since those eras and now offers a last-call opportunity as well. With stablemate ITSMYLUCKYDAY a possible favorite for the Florida Derby, look for SPEAK LOGISTICS to hit the road. MAJESTIC HUSSAR and CERRO deserve another look after a ridiculous pace, though the former would be much harder to recommend beyond 1 1/16 miles. MAJESTIC HUSSAR could be a very good Derby Trial candidate at 1 mile. CERRO gets his chance on Polytrack to make the Derby lineup next at Turfway or Keeneland. HE’S HAD ENOUGH might be best-suited for a Blue Grass date on Polytrack if they want to stay on the trail, but he has not developed at age 3. I could see him winding up in the American Turf at Churchill on Derby weekend. ELMUTAHID’s future also should be on grass, just like his mama, Alwajeeha. Wide-drawn FALLING SKY scratched in favor of a re-route back to the Tampa Bay Derby, his original goal after the Sam F. Davis victory.