One of the most intriguing Fountain of Youth Stakes in memory is set for this Saturday, as 11 top-class horses from all over the country converge on Gulfstream Park for the first major 3-year-old prep of the season.
Shipping in from California are High Cascade, trained by D. Wayne Lukas, and Global Gait, trained by Bob Baffert, with the exciting Talk is Money shipping in from Maryland. Elliott Walden will send Meetyouathebrig down from Payson Park to make his 3-year-old debut, as will Holiday Thunder, who's been training at Gulfstream.
Also in the lineup will be the first three finishers of the Holy Bull Stakes, Radical Riley, Buckle Down Ben, and Cee Dee, with the highly promising Songandaprayer also coming out of the Holy Bull. Jerry Bailey teams up with Outofthebox, an impressive allowance winner at the meet in early January, and Invisible Ink will take a three-race winning streak into the race for Todd Pletcher. Finally, there the indomitable City Zip, who is coming off a fast-closing second, beaten a neck, in the Hutcheson Stakes.
Favoritism will be up for grabs in this competitive 1 1/16-mile event, as a case can be made for several of the participants. Global Gait
has gotten a good deal of press for a Maryland Juvenile Championship winner, due to his purchase earlier this year by Baffert for Bob and Beverly Lewis for almost a million dollars. The gelded son of Concern has been working very sharply for Baffert at Santa Anita, and the trainer will find out Saturday what kind of purchase he made. Before leaving for Florida, Global Gait breezed 6 furlongs in 1:13 2/5 on Tuesday.
Speaking of Maryland and high-priced horses, Talk is Money
is a $1.8 million yearling, who has won both his starts at Laurel for John Scanlan, including a gutsy victory in the Miracle Wood Stakes against a talented and much more experienced opponent in Marciano. It was Talk is Money's first start around two turns after missing several races due to either mishaps or cancellations. Owner Daniel Borislow believes he has something very special in the son of Deputy Minister, and feels he might as well find out now if he's correct. The colt turned quite a few heads at Hialeah, blazing 5 furlongs in :57 4/5, galloping out in 1:11 and pulling up in 1:24. "He's a very good stalker," Scanlan said, "and there should be enough of them shooting for the lead. Mario Verge has been riding him and I'm going to stick with Mario. Why make changes now?"
Two colts making their 3-year-old debut will be bet heavily based on their 2-year-old form. Holiday Thunder
, trained by John Ward, has not won a stakes, but placed in all three of Kentucky's major events for 2-year-olds, the Kentucky Cup Juvenile, Breeders' Futurity, and Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. This son of Thunder Gulch has a strong late kick or can track the pace. He'll be ridden by Jorge Chavez. With several troubled trips in his past performance lines and big efforts behind Point Given and Dollar Bill, he may very well be the favorite on Saturday.Meetyouathebrig
has been training steadily at Payson Park, and should appreciate going from Payson's deep surface to the much-faster Gulfstream strip. The son of Out of Place showed his versatility last year, breaking his maiden at Hollywood Park at 4 1/2 furlongs, then concluding the year with a fast-closing victory over Hero's Tribute in the one-mile Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs on Breeders' Cup Day. This colt could be the big overlay in the race, as Walden usually has them cranked and ready to go right out of the box, and he has Pat Day aboard. You may never again get the odds you're sure to get on Saturday.
The favorite could also be City Zip
if enough people feel 1 1/16 miles is within his scope, which it most certainly should be. After sweeping the three Saratoga stakes for 2-year-olds last year, City Zip finished first in the one-mile Futurity Stakes, only to be disqualified. A lung infection compromised his last two starts. There's no reason to believe this tough, honest colt will not by flying at the leaders in the final furlong, as he usually does.
Lukas is very optimistic that High Cascade
will "make some noise" on Saturday. The son of Woodman stretched out to two turns for the first time in the Golden Gate Derby, and although he was second, beaten 5 lengths, he hung on gamely after being pressed on the lead the whole way through some pretty solid fractions. There's no reason to think he won't move forward off that race. Lukas won the Fountain of Youth last year with California shipper High Yield.
The Holy Bull horses all have a right to improve. It's just a question of whether they can step up against stiffer competition. Buckle Down Ben
, quoted at 20-1 in the Kentucky Derby Future Wager, will get blinkers this time. Third in the Remsen Stakes last fall, the colt moved too soon in the Holy Bull, then began waiting on horses.
Last week, he worked 5 furlongs in 1:00, out in 1:12 2/5 with the blinkers, and trainer Steve Klesaris expects a more professional performance this time. John Velazquez has the mount. Radical Riley
will have to prove his Holy Bull victory, on a wet track, which he loves, was no fluke. Cee Dee
, a fast-closing third, will be ridden by Richard Migliore, who worked the colt last week. Cee Dee's trainer, Timothy Hamm, doubles as a construction company owner. Songandaprayer
, fifth in the Holy Bull in his two-turn debut, has since turned in a pair of sharp 7-furlong works, and should carry the field along a lot farther this time. In the Holy Bull, he fought on the lead through a torrid half in :45 4/5. Last year, the $1 million colt, owned by former basketball star Bobby Hurley, underwent surgery to remove ankle chips in both hind legs.
There's been a lot of talk about Outofthebox
, who easily won a 1 1/16-mile allowance race at Gulfstream last out, prompting Jerry Bailey to come looking for the mount. The son of Montbook showed excellent form last year at Calder and in Kentucky, winning an allowance race at Turfway Park by 17 lengths. Invisible Ink
has won three straight, including a pair of two-turn allowance races at Gulfstream.
Another attraction on Saturday's card will be the 3-year-old debuts of A P Valentine
and Hero's Tribute
in a 7-furlong allowance race. A P Valentine will be looking ahead to the Florida Derby, while Hero's Tribute likely will go for the Tampa Bay Derby or Spiral Stakes if Holiday Thunder and Monarchos both make the Florida Derby for John Ward.
Post Positions, Jockeys, and Morning-lIne Odds:
1--TALK IS MONEY, Mario Verge, 15-1
2--HIGH CASCADE, Russell Baze, 12-1
3--SONGANDAPRAYER, Edgar Prado, 15-1
4--GLOBAL GAIT, Corey Nakatani, 4-1
5--CITY ZIP, Jose Santos, 6-1
6--OUTOFTHEBOX, Jerry Bailey, 3-1
7--BUCKLE DOWN BEN, John Velazquez, 8-1
8--RADICAL RILEY, Eduardo Nunez, 10-1
9--CEE DEE, Richard Migliore, 20-1
10--HOLIDAY THUNDER, Mike Smith, 5-1
11--MEETYOUATHEBRIG, Pat Day, 10-1