In one of the best weekend’s for 3-year-olds seen in quite a while, racing fans in Florida and Southern California will be treated to an array of top-class 3-year-olds and a number of budding stars in allowance and maiden races.
Topping the bill is the $350,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II), which will provide the first big East vs. West showdown of the year, as Hollywood Futurity (gr. I) and Norfolk (gr. II) winner Stormello comes gunning for Nobiz Like Shobiz. Stormello’s trainer and co-owner Bill Currin had done everything humanely possible to get his colt to Florida short of driving him himself. He let it be known he wants Nobiz and he wants him now. As he says, he’s here to make a statement and end what he calls an East Coast bias.
Nobiz Like Shobiz was out for a half-mile breeze Thursday and looked spectacular. From a physical standpoint, he is a man among boys. His stride is enormous, as is his girth, and he made light work of his half-mile breeze in :47 3/5 under Cornelio Velasquez.
Stormello had a flight delay in Dallas after leaving California at about 6:30 a.m. and didn’t arrive at Gulfstream until 10 p.m. He walked the shed Thursday and took in the new surroundings. With Currin and jockey Kent Desormeaux looking on, the son of Stormy Atlantic had a solid gallop Friday, and worked up a good sweat on a warm, humid morning.
Gulfstream’s Fountain of Youth isn’t a two-horse race by any means with the presence of Drums of Thunder, Scat Daddy, and Adore the Gold. The last named didn’t draw too well in post 9. Although the object is to get the colt to settle behind horses, he may have to be used early to get position and then try to settle. Trainer Mike Gorham says he will leave it all up to Edgar Prado. The son of Formal Goldwas out for an easy spin Friday morning. He is a smallish colt, but well made with a good hind end. His coat looks excellent, but his most distinguishable attribute is his alertness and big bright eye. He’s what one would call a happy horse.
It will be interesting to see if Desormeaux can keep a fresh Stormello off the lead. Johannesburg Star and Hal’s My Hope should get good position early breaking from posts 1 and 2, respectively, but they will have Stormello, Nobiz Like Shobiz and Adore the Gold breathing down their necks. Of course, Adore the Gold, who looks to be the quickest horse in the field, could wind up on the lead from the far outside if no one wants it.
Either way, it should be a contentious pace, which could set it up for Drums of Thunder, who is getting good at the right time, and improving with every start. Scat Daddy should also get a good pace scenario, and expect him to return to his old tactics of making one run.
In the Robert Lewis, Great Hunter will take most of the money, and Bob Baffert’s newly acquired Saint Paul should get some play. But the two smart horses at a price are Sam P. and Boutrous. Perhaps Sam P. didn’t care for Gulfstream in his last start, but whatever the reason for his dull performance in the Holy Bull Stakes, he could rebound with a change of scenery. The main negative is that his two stakes appearances were both poor, so he still has to prove his class. But his win over Chelokee and his second to stablemate Any Give Saturday suggests he has the ability to make his presence felt. Boutrous had a horrible trip in the California Derby and could be a smart play in here.
The Hutcheson Stakes (gr. II) is a wide open affair, with at least a half-dozen horses having a legitimate shot to win. Swale (gr. II) runner-up Forefathers didn’t draw well on the rail, and Storm in May, winner of the Sunshine Millions Dash, will have a lot of traffic breaking from post 3. If you’re looking for a good angle, Bold Start, who will be a big price, turned in one of the best performances of the meet when he won a mile allowance race over Fountain of Youth starter Meritocracy, but ran horribly in the Holy Bull. He’s been working sharply in blinkers and will wear them for the first time in the Hutcheson. Expect a huge performance from Out of Gwedda, who ran a big race when second in the Spectacular Bid, his first start in six months.
Shug McGaughey’s two big 3-year-olds -- Sightseeing and Rescue Party --- both drew poorly in their respective allowance races on Saturday’s Gulfstream Park card. Sighseeing drew the outside (post 10) going 1 1/8 miles and Rescue Party drew the rail going 7 1/2 furlongs, so things couldn’t have worked out worse. But both are sitting on big races and could overcome their obstacles. Watch for them, especially a few races down the road.
Another equipment change to keep an eye on is the addition of blinkers on the Ken McPeek-trained Highest Degree in the nine-furlong allowance. The son of Menifee is looking for distance and his fast-closing third in his last start – a race with absolutely no pace – suggests he could step up big-time here.
In the 7 1/2-furlong race, look for big bounce-back performances from Mister White Socks and Boogie Boggs. Both had excuses in their last start, and both have already shown they have ability.