Gunnevera is lead into the winner's circle after the Fountain of Youth

Gunnevera is lead into the winner's circle after the Fountain of Youth

Coglianese Photos/Lauren King

Top Three Finishers Exit Fountain of Youth Well

Beaten favorite Irish War Cry also doing well.

Peacock Racing Stable's Gunnevera exited his 5 3/4-length triumph in the March 4 $400,000 Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park "happy and sound," trainer Antonio Sano reported Sunday.

"He's very good this morning, 100% sound," Sano said. 

Gunnevera rallied from last in a field of 10 to capture the important prep for Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1). The colt now tops the Road to the Kentucky Derby leaderboard with 64 points.

WINCZE HUGHES: Gunnevera Comes From Clouds in Fountain of Youth

"It was very exciting. The horse demonstrated that he was the best horse in the race," Sano said.

Gunnevera finished second behind Irish War Cry in the $350,000 Lambholm South Holy Bull (G2) at Gulfstream Feb. 4 when his momentum was interrupted by a bumping incident on the turn into the homestretch.

WINCZE HUGHES: Irish War Cry Scores Upset in Holy Bull

Jockey Javier Castellano bolsters Sano's confidence in Gunnevera's future.

"Javier is a friend of mine. He's very confident in the horse," said Sano, who saddled Gunnevera for off-the-pace victories in the Saratoga Special (G2) and the $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot (G3) last year. "He's a very strong closer."

Sano said Gunnevera was "90%" to run next in the Florida Derby (G1).

Chad Brown reported Fountain of Youth runner-up Practical Joke  "looked good so far" Sunday morning at Palm Meadows, noting there are "no plans moving forward yet."

Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence's son of Into Mischief , who added grade 1 wins in the Hopeful and Champagne stakes last season, raced for the first time Saturday since a third-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1).

Shade Tree Thoroughbreds, Tom Fitzgerald, and Geoff Roy's Three Rules is also doing well following his third-place effort in the Fountain of Youth, his second start this year following a runner-up finish in the seven-furlong Swale Stakes (G2) Feb. 4.

Trainer Jose Pinchin was impressed with the son of Gone Astray , who finished third by 6 1/4 lengths but just a half-length behind Practical Joke after dueling with the multiple grade 1 winner down the stretch.

"He came out of it good," Pinchin said. "I thought he ran a very good race. I thought he ran very well considering the track was slow and he didn't get a break. (Irish War Cry) really went with him the first five furlongs, and Gunnevera passed him but he stuck with (Practical Joke). It was a good run."

Pinchin said it was too early to zero in on Three Rules' next start, but didn't rule out a return in the Florida Derby.

"Right now it's up to the owners, so I'll wait to hear from them," he said. "He's got a lot of options."

Previously undefeated Irish War Cry, also appeared well Sunday morning following his seventh-place finish as the favorite in the Fountain of Youth, trainer Graham Motion said.

"Really, he seems fine. I have no issues with him," he said. "He seemed to cool out fine and he looked good this morning. It's a real head-scratcher."

From an uncontested lead in his front-running Holy Bull triumph, Isabelle de Tomaso's New Jersey homebred sat off the pace under jockey Joel Rosario before fading on the turn for home.

"The one thing I blame myself for perhaps, is not telling Joel he should have taken a hold of him and taken him back," Motion said. "I think to compete in these races, at some point you've got to be able to be adaptable to different scenarios.

"This horse, if he's going to compete at this level, he's got to be able to relax. I think it was a combination of maybe laying a little too close to a pretty good pace on what was a drying-out, cuppy racetrack and maybe just regressing (from) such a big race."

Motion said he hadn't initially targeted the Fountain of Youth following the Holy Bull but the progresssion of the son of Curlin  in the last four weeks convinced him to take a shot.

"I certainly considered not running him yesterday," Motion said. "From a handicapping point of view, he jumped so far forward in the Holy Bull there was every opportunity he was going to regress in this race but I felt that his regression would still be good enough to be very competitive, and he certainly trained so well I had no reason to think that he couldn't run on Saturday. He was in such great form in everything he'd done since the Holy Bull.

"It's easy to be an armchair quarterback the next day and second-guess your decisions," he added. "The good thing is right now he seems to be in good shape."

Motion did not rule out the Florida Derby but hinted he was more likely to give Irish War Cry more time heading into his next start.

"I've got to sit on him for a couple of weeks and see where we're at. Whatever the decision, he's not going anywhere for a couple of weeks. I'll keep him down here while we try to figure out the next step."