The blurry Kentucky Derby picture should begin clearing up Saturday, as a number of Triple Crown hopefuls meet to determine who makes that all-important leap forward. The grade I Fountain of Youth Stakes, which drew a field of eight, is split right down the middle, with four stakes winners facing off against four up-and-coming stars. And in supporting allowance races, two promising colts lock horns in a prep for the Florida Derby, and a former Coolmore colt makes his U.S. debut.
The Fountain of Youth will pit stakes winners Harlan's Holiday, Booklet, Political Attack, and Maybry's Boy against recent allowance winners Stephentown, Grey Beard, Blue Burner, and Speed Hunter. In the supporting mile and 70-yard allowance race, stakes-placed High Star, from the Nick Zito stable, faces off against the brilliant Canadian colt Changeintheweather.
Harlan's Holiday, second in the Holy Bull, was made the 5-2 morning line favorite, with Tony D'Amico in the saddle, and will break from post 4. Holy Bull winner Booklet (Jorge Chavez up) and Tropical Park Derby winner Political Attack (Mark Guidry) look to be the speed in the race. The one horse who is expected to take a good deal of money in the wagering is Stephentown. The son of Wild Again scored an explosive victory in a two-turn allowance and has received a good deal of hype since that race. Pat Day will be aboard the Tony Reinstedler-trained colt. Breaking from the rail will be Grey Beard, who raced the same day as Stephentown and nosed out Monthir, while running a tick faster in a very game effort over a tough, seasoned stakes horse. The son of Unbridled's Song has Edgar Prado in the saddle, and has a good shot at a price.
Two real unknowns in here are Blue Burner, an undefeated son of French Deputy, trained by Bill Mott for George Steinbrenner, and Speed Hunter, from the Elliott Walden stable. If Speed Hunter can duplicate his explosive stretch run in a recent seven-furlong allowance race, he could be one to watch, also at a good price. Listed at 6-1, he'll be ridden by Rene Douglas. If you're looking for a potentially live horse at a good price he's the one. He has a very interesting pedigree, being inbred 3x5 to Nijinsky II, 4x4 to Damascus, and 4x4x5 to Raise a Native. Now that is diversified inbreeding.
Finally, we have Maybry's Boy, who is trying to rebound off a disappointing effort in the Hutcheson Stakes. But being a stone closer, he was basically spinning his wheels trying to catch the speed in the Hutcheson over an incredibly slow and deep track. A lot of people have been waiting to see if the son of Broad Brush can put in the same powerful closing kick he demonstrated in his previous three races.
Maybry's Boy's stablemate Saarland breezed a half in :49 Thursday. He could show up in a seven-furlong allowance race next Saturday.
If the Fountain of Youth for some reason doesn't help clear up the 3-year-old picture, maybe the supporting allowance will. An impressive victory by either High Star or Changeintheweather will stamp that horse as a major contender in the Florida Derby. High Star, third in last year's Kentucky Jockey Club to Repent, scored an impressive allowance victory on Jan. 26.
Changeintheweather blew away a maiden field by 10 lengths at Woodbine before romping in the Grey Breeders' Cup. We don't know how good this son of Gone West really is, but he prepped for this race with a dazling six-furlong work in 1:11 flat. His female family is as good as it gets for a mile and a quarter, so it'll be interesting to see how performs in his U.S. debut.
Also on the card is a 1 1/6-mile allowance race that will feature the U.S. and dirt debut of former Coolmore colt Monarchoftheglen, who has been training very sharply at Payson Park for new trainer Niall O'Callaghan.