Despite making just the third start of his career and facing stakes company for the first time, Edward Evans’ homebred Quality Road romped to a resounding 4 1/4-length victory in the $250,000 Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) (VIDEO) Feb. 28 at Gulfstream Park.
Racing with lasix for the first time and receiving a six-to-eight pound edge from most of his rivals, Quality Road stayed right on the heels of pacesetter This Ones for Phil in the one-mile contest for 3-year-olds. The son of Elusive Qualityinched closer to the leader when they rounded the turn and then took over at the top of the lane under John Velazquez. He extended his advantage in upper stretch and was never challenged while stopping the clock in 1:35.01 on the fast main track.
“I knew we would have a lot of speed (coming in), but the trick was to settle him in there and make him relax," said Velazquez, who also won the grade III Canadian Turf aboard Twilight Meteor. "He was ready to run and run today. The closer we got to the finish the stronger I felt we were getting. It’s always special to win, but when you can pull off back-to-back (stakes) it’s even more special."
Theregoesjojo made a big move while being swung wide entering the stretch and was a clear second under Kent Desormeaux. The son of Brahms was four lengths better than third-place Beethoven, who rallied well from last. Hutcheson (gr. II) winner Capt. Candyman Can was fourth, but more than nine lengths from the winner. He went off as the lukewarm 7-2 favorite.
Sunshine Millions winner This Ones for Phil, who wound up finishing fifth, broke sharply from the outside and for a while looked as though he was going to take the field of 10 gate-to-wire with Edgar Prado aboard. He clicked off a reasonable opening quarter-mile of :23.83, but then quickened the pace when running a half-mile in :45.55 and six furlongs in 1:09.40.
Taqarub, who shipped in from New York after winning the Jimmy Winkfield Stakes in convincing fashion, was up close early, as was Capt. Candyman Can and Break Water Edison. Notonthesamepage, who won the Spectacular Bid Stakes by 8 1/4 lengths Jan. 3 at Gulfstream and was expected to set the pace, broke mid-pack and was never a factor. He finished seventh, a head in back of Bee Cee Cee.
Bred in Virginia and out of the Strawberry Road mare Kobla, Quality Road broke his maiden at first asking Nov. 29 at Aqueduct, winning by 2 3/4 lengths at six furlongs. He made his 3-year-old debut Jan. 10 at Gulfstream in allowance company, finishing runner-up to Theregoesjojo by nearly three lengths. The bay colt fired a pair of bullet works coming into the Fountain of Youth. He picked $150,000 for the win and now has $182,830 in earnings.
Winning trainer Jimmy Jerkens wasn't immediately sure where his new Triple Crown contender would go next.
"We’ll talk it over before making a decision on what’s next," Jerkens said. "I’m a New York guy so the Wood (Memorial, gr. I, April 4 at Aqueduct) might be one option. On the other hand, he’s trained great over the track down here (Palm Meadows) and weather isn’t likely to interrupt his schedule, so the Florida Derby (gr. I) is naturally a possibility. We missed the first deadline (for Triple Crown) nominations, but we’ll put it up in March. It will just cost a little more."
Sent off as the fourth choice, Quality Road paid $13, $6.40, and $4.60. The exacta (11-2) returned $77.20 and the $1 trifecta (11-2-7) was worth $261.20.
Jack Spratt finished eighth, followed by Taqarub and Break Water Edison, who was eased in the final furlong.
Ken McPeek, who trains Theregoesjojo for Samotowka Stables and partners, was delighted with his colt's effort.
“We are really happy," McPeek said. "We didn’t lay it all down for this race. He wasn’t 100% cranked and we’re excited about going forward from here. I thought he ran a great race and lost to a very good horse. And believe me, the horse that won is one very impressive horse.”