Ogden Mills Phipps' Defer will face a two-turn test against a field of 10 other sophomores entered in Saturday's Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park, the final major prep for the $ 1-million Florida Derby (gr. I) April 2.
Headlining the five stakes card, the Fountain of Youth gets a $50,000 boost from last year's renewal to $300,000 and will be contested for the first time at 1 1/8 miles, 1/16 of a mile farther than in past years.
The Fountain of Youth and the Swale Stakes (gr. II) will be televised from 5 to 6 p.m. (EST) on ABC.
Trainer Shug McGaughey said Defer has a simple task in the Fountain of Youth.
"He's got to run better than he did in the Hutcheson," said McGaughey. "He's got to prove he can handle a mile and an eighth and he's got to prove he can run with the ones he's up against. Otherwise we'll have to back up."
Defer came in a disappointing fourth, 6 3/4 lengths behind Proud Accolade in the Feb. 5 Hutcheson Stakes (gr. II). That race was at 7 1/2 furlongs, and McGaughey's plan all along was to send the son of Danzig into longer races.
"We want to get him around two turns," McGaughey said. "It should suit him. He still needs to run better, though. Since the last race he's been training very well and he's going in there ready to go."
Cornelio Velasquez will replace Jerry Bailey, who has been aboard for the colt's last two races, including his first stakes victory in the 8 1/2-furlong Laurel Futurity (gr. III) at Pimlico last November. Defer will break from post six, carrying 120 pounds.
Up against Defer are co-highweights Char-Mari Stable's Park Avenue Ball and Ross McLeod's General John B, carrying 122 pounds.
Trained by James Ryerson and bred by Charles Hesse in New Jersey, Park Avenue Ball enters the Fountain of Youth off a runner-up effort in the Hutcheson. The son of Citidancer
also fell foe to Proud Accolade in the Champagne Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont last year. The colt's star moment came winning the mile Futurity Stakes (gr. II) at Belmont last September.
Javier Castellano will again be aboard and the pair will break from post four.
Trained by Roger Stein, General John B, the only gelding in the field, will step up to his first graded race. Bred by John Prete in Florida, the son of Sweetsouthernsaint
, won two of his first three starts at Calder before shipping West to California, where he ran third to Going Wild in the San Miguel Stakes at Santa Anita. He then won the 8 1/2 furlong Turf Paradise Derby by six lengths on Feb. 5.
Jose Santos, aboard for the first time, will break General John B from post three.
Bandini, a nine-length winning sensation in an 1 1/8 mile-allowance race at Gulstream on Feb. 5, will make his stakes debut in the Fountain of Youth for trainer Todd Pletcher. Owned by Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith, the son of Fusaichi Pegasus
will break from post eight under jockey John Velazquez.
Live Oak Stud's High Fly enters the race off a disappointing third-place finish in the Feb. 5 Holy Bull Stakes (gr. III) behind Closing Argument. The loss broke a three-race win streak, including a nine-length score in the Aventura Stakes at Gulfstream. The son of Atticus
has since been transferred from trainer Bill White to Nick Zito.
Jerry Bailey, who won the 2004 Fountain of Youth aboard Read the Footnotes, will replace regular rider Eddie Castro Jr. High Fly will break from post seven. Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II), $300,000, 1 1/8 miles, 3-year-olds, Gulfstream Park, Saturday, March 5, approximate post time: 5:45 p.m. (EST)
PP -- Horse, Weight, Jockey,
1 - B. B. Best, 120, Jorge F. Chavez
2 - Kansas City Boy, 116, Brice Blanc
3 - General John B, 122, Jose A. Santos
4 - Park Avenue Ball , 122, Javier Castellano
5 - Papi Chullo , 116, Russell A. Baze
6 - Defer, 120, Cornelio H. Velasquez
7 - High Fly, 120, Jerry D. Bailey
8 - Bandini, 116, John R. Velazquez
9 - Wild Desert, 116, Pat Day
10 - Dearest Mon, 116, Ramon A. Dominguez
11 - Natural Phenomenon, 116, Eibar Coa