After Conquest Titan closed from last to finish second behind Cairo Prince in the Holy Bull (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park Jan. 25, trainer Mark Casse looked into his options for the son of Birdstone on the road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
Though he surmised that Conquest Stables' late-closing 3-year-old might be somewhat better suited to other races, Casse determined that the $400,000 Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) Feb. 22 is the best option for achieving his ultimate goal.
"I thought (the Holy Bull) was great and a really good learning experience for him," Casse said. "Right now our goal is to keep him happy and healthy, and that's one of the reasons we're going to stay and run in the Fountain of Youth.
"We maybe would have a better shot going to New Orleans with the longer stretch, with speed not holding as well there. But we felt it was better to keep him home for right now. We know he loves Churchill Downs, so we're trying to get him there happy and healthy. I think he proved the other day that he can run with the best of them."
Conquest Titan broke from an outside post position and quickly settled in at the back of the 11-horse pack before making his move leaving the backstretch in the 1 1/16-mile Holy Bull. The Kentucky-bred colt circled the field on the turn and kicked in through the stretch to check in 5 3/4 lengths behind Cairo Prince.
"He ran by some really nice horses at the half-mile pole," Casse said. "He has got an extremely fast turn of foot."
In the Fountain of Youth, the major prep for the $1 million Besilu Stables Florida Derby (gr. I) at Gulfstream March 29, Conquest Titan is expected to meet a strong group of 3-year-olds. They include General a Rod, who finished second behind the Casse trainee in a Nov. 30 allowance event at Churchill before capturing the $100,000 Gulfstream Park Derby Jan. 1.
Other Fountain of Youth prospects include Shug McGaughey-trained Top Billing, a sensational allowance winner on the Holy Bull undercard; trainer Todd Pletcher's Commissioner , who registered a narrow victory over Top Billing in a Jan. 3 allowance test; and the Jose Garoffolo-trained Wildcat Red, who captured the Hutcheson Stakes (gr. III) Feb. 1.