The field of 12 in the Fountain of Youth was loaded with highly-regarded Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) contenders, but many of them, including betting favorite Monba, never challenged in the 1 1/8-mile event.
Cool Coal Man, who like War Pass is owned by Robert LaPenta, won for the fourth time in his last five starts, and captured his first graded stakes under Kent Desormeaux. The bay colt entered off a one-length allowance victory Jan. 26, also a 1 1/8-mile trek on the Gulfstream dirt. But prior to that he was a well-beaten seventh in his lone stakes effort, the Nov. 24 Kentucky Jockey Club (gr. II), in which another Zito colt, Anak Nakal, prevailed.
This effort proved that the son of Mineshaft is for real, as he completed the distance in 1:49.53. (The initial time for the race and Equibase chart showed a final time of 1:51.85, which was later changed. The original fractional times were also later amended.)
“He couldn’t have gotten a better trip," Zito said. "I had confidence going in with the (one) post that Kent would get a good position with him. He’s run two great races here. I can’t say where or what race (Cool Coal Man) will run in (next), possibly the Florida Derby (gr. I, Mar. 29). He’s not a big horse. He’d need to have a good 30 days from now. We’ll see.”
Court Vision, going off as the 4-1 second choice, rallied willingly from last to get up for third, but was 5 3/4 lengths behind Elysium Fields. Z Humor, coming off just an eight-day layoff for trainer Bill Mott, was fourth.
In a race void of any significant pace, Golden Spikes broke from post two and sprinted to an early lead. Under handling from Javier Castellano, Golden Spikes posted a :23.56 quarter, and continued uncontested on the lead through a :46.93 half-mile.
Make the Point, from post 11, stalked through the backstretch, with Elysium Fields and Cool Coal Man also staying close to the front. Kentucky Bear saved ground on the rail in fifth, while Court Vision was last, more than 15 lengths behind.
Make the Point, with John Velazquez aboard, made the front by the time they ran six furlongs (1:10.80), while Golden Spikes began to retreat. Cool Coal Man was 2 1/2 lengths off the pace by then, but angling three-wide, he began to eat up ground, and drew even with the leader by the five-sixteenths pole. Elysium Fields was also part of the three-way chase as they came out of the final turn.
At the top of the stretch Cool Coal Man passed both Make the Point and Elysium Fields then slightly extended his lead. He had a nearly two-length advantage on Elysium Fields in upper stretch and seemed poised for victory. But with urging from Eibar Coa, Elysium Fields, who broke his maiden just last month, eased from off the rail and closed the gap in the final yards.
Cool Man Man had just enough to hold off the determined El Pradocolt.
"I was concerned about the ‘9 horse’ [Elysium Fields]," Desormeaux said "It’s hard to sustain that kind of speed for a long time, but when we were galloping out after the wire he moved out again once he felt the other horse come up to him. My hat goes off to Zito. He told me, ‘You know what to do. You didn’t get here not knowing what to do.’ My horse was very handy and attentive to my needs. I think we went faster than what the clock said. But time is irrelevant; we won.”
Out of the Rubiano mare Coral Sea, Cool Coal Man was bred in Kentucky by Will Farish, E.J. Hudson Jr., and Irrevocable Trust. He is now 4-1-0 from seven starts and has earned $307,531. He banked $210,000 fo this score.
Going off as the 7-1 fourth choice, Cool Coal Man paid $16.60, $8.40 and $6. The exacta (1-9) with 8-1 Elysium Fields was worth $175.60, while the trifecta (1-9-3) returned $1,267.60.
The Todd Pletcher-trained Monba (3-1), making his 3-year-old debut, was sixth through a half-mile, but was bumped and faded to last. Also making his sophomore debut was Anak Nakal, but the Victory Gallop colt was never a factor and finished eighth.
Zayat Stables’ Halo Najib, coming off a victory in the Feb. 11 OBS Championship at Ocala, was fourth at the top of the stretch, but showed no rally and came in sixth, just behind Golden Spikes.