Dave Litfin - Litfin At Large

Dave Litfin - Litfin At Large

Litfin at Large: Derby, Oaks Preps Take Center Stage

Champion Good Magic set for his 2018 debut.

Things start to heat up March 3 in terms of qualifying races for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) and the Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1).
In South Florida, a blockbuster 14-race card is anchored by the Xpressbet Fountain Of Youth Stakes (G2), which offers 85 qualifying points (50-20-10-5) for the Derby on May 5, and features the seasonal debut of 2017 juvenile male champion Good Magic. The 1 1/16-mile race will be televised on Fox Sports 2 starting at 6 pm EDT.
The Fountain of Youth ends a $750,000 late pick four and a $500,000 late pick five. Among the eight supporting stakes on the program is the Davona Dale (G2), an 85-point qualifier for the Oaks on May 4, in which Fly So High will be heavily favored to provide Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey with his 2,000th career victory.
Meanwhile, the Santa Ysabel (G3) at Santa Anita Park and the Busher Stakes at Aqueduct Racetrack are also 85-point Oaks qualifiers.
Let's start with the boys.
Xpressbet Fountain Of Youth (GP, race 14, 6:09 ET): Enjoy your morning, afternoon, and early evening at Gulfstream, where first post is 11:30 a.m.. Many hours later, Good Magic (6) will be a clear favorite against nine rivals in this 1 1/16-mile race that uses the sixteenth-pole as the finish line.
As always with a returning champ who is being groomed for bigger and better things, the thing to remember about Good Magic is that, as trainer Chad Brown put it, he is "running to win, but we don't really want a hard race." That being said, surely you've noticed how Brown's layoff runners routinely come back running, and based on the way Good Magic won the Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1), he can win with something less than a top performance.
The value, if there is any to be had, may involve going against Strike Power (4), who is the second choice on the morning line as he attempts to stretch out from two local sprint wins, including the Swale Stakes (G3) four weeks ago.
Strike Power is a homebred from Don Adams' Courtlandt Farm and is trained by Mark Hennig. These connections will have a busy afternoon, as they also have the highly promising fillies Cache in the Davona Dale and My Miss Lilly in the Busher. Strike Power was quickly able to clear for the lead in both of his wins, but did not change leads through the stretch either time, and he figures to be pressed by Machismo (9) and Promises Fulfilled (10), who will have to hustle early from the outside posts with a very short run to the first turn.
Gotta Go (7) was a late-running second behind Strike Power in the Swale—a useful conditioning race first time out this year—and may slip through the cracks at a decent price.
I'm not sure what to do with Marconi (8), the $2 million half-brother to 2013 Breeders' Cup Classic winner Mucho Macho Man  who was a somewhat disappointing third in the recent Withers Stakes (G3), but recall that four weeks ago, Todd Pletcher shipped Audible down from New York to win the Lambholm South Holy Bull Stakes (G2) by better than five lengths. Behind him in second was Free Drop Billy (2), who can move forward off that effort.
A - 6
B - 2, 7, 8

Davona Dale (GP race 8, 3 ET): Fly So High (8) drew favorably on the outside in this one-mile race that begins out of the chute, and as mentioned, the daughter of Malibu Moon  will be favored to become career winner number 2,000 for McGaughey.
Interestingly, Fly So High was a rare purchase ($675,000 at the Keeneland September 2016 Sale) by the Phipps Stable, even though her dam lost all four starts (two in $40,000 maiden claimers), and two half-siblings were a combined 0 for 10. 
And while Fly So High's two wins—both at a mile—have come by lopsided margins, and she has been versatile enough to win on the lead and from off the pace, she is meeting stakes-seasoned opponents now, and a closer look at her Jan. 4 allowance win reveals she was drawing away through a final quarter-mile that required nearly 27 seconds.
Cache (7) was purchased ($500,000) out of the same sale as Fly So High. She was tipped all over the track for her debut Jan. 27, and overcame a slow start and some greenness to win decisively. She has even less experience than Fly So High, but sometimes talent trumps experience, as we know.
The sleeper in the field could be Sunny Skies (2), who had some late traffic when last seen in the JPMorgan Chase Jessamine Stakes (G3T) on turf against Rushing Fall, who subsequently stayed unbeaten taking the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1T). 
Sunny Skies showed ability in four dirt starts last year, including a third in the Pocahontas Stakes (G2), and she has picked up the tempo in her latest workouts at bucolic Payson Park for trainer Kenny McPeek.
Take Charge Paula (6) and Sultry (1), the first two finishers in the Forward Gal Stakes (G3), are not to be taken lightly in this race, either.
A - 8
B - 2, 7
C - 1, 6

Busher (Aqu, race 8, 4:56 ET): It remains to be seen what track conditions will be like at Aqueduct, which cancelled March 2 because of a rainy nor'easter that was ravaging the New York area.
Any remaining moisture in the surface would bode well for My Miss Lilly (8), who was a sharp debut winner over a sloppy Big A strip Dec. 23, before going down to Gulfstream and running third behind Take Charge Paula in the Forward Gal while wide, and galloping out with a surplus of energy.
For what it's worth, My Miss Lilly and Cache both worked four furlongs in 48.66 seconds at Gulfstream Feb. 24, so how the latter runs in the Davona Dale could provide some additional clues here later in the afternoon.
Sara Street (1) was a maiden winner second time out, and the Street Sense  filly did so at the expense of Lady Suebee, who had also been bested by My Miss Lilly a few weeks before that. 
Sara Street is a Godolphin Racing homebred out of Sara Louise, who captured the one-mile Top Flight (G3) over the old Aqueduct main track in 2009, in addition to winning a sloppy edition of the Victory Ride (G3).
Shamrock Rose (7) makes her first appearance since meeting males on yielding turf at Woodbine last fall. She was second to eventual Demoiselle (G2) winner Wonder Gadot prior to that, and was talented enough to win her career debut in the Ontario Debutante.
I'm against the two morning-line choices, War Heroine (2) and Midnight Disguise (3). The latter is shortening up after getting a great setup in the Busanda going 1 1/8 miles.
A - 1, 8
B - 7
C - 3

Santa Ysabel (SA, race 6, 3:00 PT): Dream Tree (6) beat Midnight Bisou (3) by a nose twice last fall, each time barely holding on after opening a clear lead in midstretch. 
Dream Tree has since gone on to win the Starlet (G1) and the Las Virgenes (G2) around two turns, picking up 10 Oaks points in the latter race. Midnight Bisou earned 10 points by taking the Santa Ynez (G2) in her first start at age 3, and acts as though this stretch-out in distance will be right up her alley.
Both fillies probably have to catch Spring Lily (2), who was vastly improved wiring maidens in her first start off a trainer change to John Shirreffs.
A - 3, 6
B - 2