Traffic will increase on the road to Gulfstream Park's $1 million Florida Derby (gr. I) next week as a field of 10, including some West Coast invaders, assembles for the grade I Fountain of Youth Stakes.The 1 1/16-mile Fountain on Saturday, Feb. 17, serves as the final major prep for the 50th anniversary running of the Florida Derby and the 3-year-old classics beyond.This 55th running of the Fountain of Youth is likely to come up a wide-open betting event. With Eclipse Award winner Macho Uno and grade I winner A P Valentine sitting this one out, there is no big favorite for the prep.Radical Riley, Buckle Down Ben and Cee Dee, the first three finishers in the Holy Bull Stakes (gr/ III) last month, are expected to go in the Fountain of Youth, but it is likely they will not be favored.The role of wagering choice may fall to one of the California invaders – Global Gait or High Cascade – or to a quickly improving horse like Invisible Ink, who has been impressive in his two allowance scores over this track.Global Gait won three straight in Maryland, including two stakes, before being purchased by Bob and Beverly Lewis, who gave the horse to Bob Baffert to train at Santa Anita. High Cascade is a D. Wayne Lukas-trained colt who broke his maiden at Del Mar and was second in the Golden Gate Derby (gr. III) last out.If speed is carrying the day on Feb. 17, City Zip will get a lot of attention. The Linda Rice-trained colt was a fast-closing second to Yonaguska in the seven-furlong Hutcheson (gr. II) last out here, and last year won four straight graded stakes including the Grade 1 Hopeful at Saratoga.Trainer John Ward Jr. has a trio of developing 3-year-olds, and the one he's pointing for the Fountain of Youth is Holiday Thunder, who has been second or third in his last three starts, all graded stakes.
Two other horses who have been training at Gulfstream are scheduled to go in the Fountain of Youth. Songandaprayer, owned by former basketball star Bobby Hurley, was fifth in the Holy Bull, but showed some grit in just his third career start for trainer John Dowd. Outofthebox was a romping allowance winner here Jan. 3 for trainer Bernie Flint, who has been preparing the colt for this spot ever since.Elliott Walden will ship in a newcomer to the scene in Meetyouathebrig, who won the grade III Iroquois at Churchill Downs in his final appearance as a 2-year-old.Several other Florida Derby hopefuls are expected to use allowance races as preps for Gulfstream's signature event.