Top sophomore colt A P Valentine could make his next start in Florida Derby.

Top sophomore colt A P Valentine could make his next start in Florida Derby.

Florida Derby Likely Next Star for Macho Uno, A P Valentine

From Gulfstream Park
After Saturday's seven-furlong Hutcheson Stakes, just one more stakes preview will remain on the Gulfstream Park schedule for the March 10 Florida Derby. But what a prep it should be.

The $200,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. I) on Saturday, Feb. 17, could draw as many as 10 classic hopefuls, including Radical Riley, winner of the Holy Bull Stakes (gr. III) here on Jan. 20; Windsor Castle, winner of the Remsen Stakes (gr. II) at Aqueduct in his juvenile finale, and Outofthebox and Invisible Ink, convincing winners of allowance events earlier in January.

Likely to await the $1 million Florida Derby (gr. I) are the major 3-year-olds in Florida – Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) winner Macho Uno, and Champagne Stakes (gr. I) winner A P Valentine. Another pointing directly to the mile and an eighth Florida Derby is Buckle Down Ben, winner of the Laurel Futurity (gr. III) last season and second in the Holy Bull.

Macho Uno, trained by Joe Orseno, and A P Valentine, trained by Nick Zito, are now listed as co-third choices at 10-1 on the Kentucky Derby Future Book at Bally's Las Vegas. Current future book favorite at 6-1 is Point Given, who finished a nose behind Macho Uno in the Breeders' Cup race. Next at 8-1 is Millennium Wind, winner of the Santa Catalina Stakes (gr. III) last week at Santa Anita.

But the mile and a sixteenth Fountain of Youth could turn into a super scramble for position as the 3-year-olds eye the 50th running of the Florida Derby and the Triple Crown classics beyond.

Radical Riley, who won the What a Pleasure Stakes (gr. III) at Calder in December, showed that was no fluke with a head victory over Buckle Down Ben in the mile and a sixteenth Holy Bull. Cee Dee, third in that race, is also expected to return in the Fountain of Youth.

Windsor Castle will be a major performer in the Fountain of Youth. The Frank Alexander-trained colt won the Remsen Stakes in his first try around two turns and has been working steadily at Gulfstream for his 2001 debut. The son of Lord Carson is currently 30-1 in the future book.

Another new shooter getting ready here is Holiday Thunder, trained by John Ward Jr. The Thunder Gulch colt broke his maiden at Saratoga and was second to Point Given in the Kentucky Cup Juvenile (gr. III) in September. He was second in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (gr. II) in his final start of last season. Holiday Thunder is a 40-1 chance in the future book.

Outofthebox won a mile and 70-yard allowance event by nearly five lengths here on Jan. 3 and trainer Bernie Flint immediately earmarked him for the Fountain of Youth.

Todd Pletcher trains Invisible Ink, who scored by nearly a length going a mile and a sixteenth here on Jan. 6 and continues to train well.

Others eyeing the Fountain of Youth include Scorpion, from the D. Wayne Lukas stable; Thunder Blitz, second to Invisible Ink in the Jan. 6 allowance; and Songandaprayer, fifth in the Holy Bull after setting a very fast pace.