Making his first start for trainer Nick Zito, High Fly rebounded from a third-place finish in the Holy Bull Stakes (gr. III) to win Saturday's Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park.
Ridden by Jerry Bailey for the first time, High Fly broke alertly in the 1 1/8-mile race that serves as the top Gulfstream prep for the April 2 Florida Derby (gr. I) and then was settled back into second as 17-1 shot B. B. Best took the early lead.
With 11-10 favorite High Fly and second choice Bandini settling into stalking positions, B. B. Best set moderate fractions of 23.35, 46.94, and 1:11.02 for the first three-quarters of a mile. Rounding the second turn, High Fly began his move, followed by Bandini. Bandini made up ground in late stretch but could not catch High Fly, who won by 1 3/4 lengths. The final time was 1:49.70.
High Fly paid $4.20, $2.80, and $2.40, with Bandini returning $3.40 and $2.80 and B. B. Best worth $4.60. Papi Chullo was fourth, followed by Wild Desert, Park Avenue Ball, Defer, General John B, and Natural Phenomenon. Kansas City Boy and Dearest Mon were scratched.
"He was real impressive," Zito said. "I knew he was a quality horse after the Aventura. Obviously, he's a top horse, the way he relaxed and had enough to finish."
Of plans for the 3-year-old son of Atticus
, Zito said, "We'll talk to the owners. The Kentucky Derby (gr. I) could be a good way to go. I'd rather get through the Florida Derby before deciding"
"He broke exceptionally well and was up to the task today," Bailey said. "He'll go a mile and a quarter, no question about it. It's just a question of how fast he'll do it."
"We're going to breeze him in blinkers to see if an equipment change will make a difference," trainer Todd Pletcher said of Bandini. "We're very pleased with this performance, but he needs to get a little more focused."
Owned and bred in Kentucky by Live Oak Plantation, High Fly won his first three career starts, highlighted by a victory in the Aventura Stakes, and finished third as the 3-5 favorite in the Holy Bull Stakes while trained by Bill White
"You've also got to thank Bill White, who got High Fly as a 2-year-old," Zito said. "Bill White is a friend and he has a good reputation. High Fly fell into our system and didn't let us down."