The Fountain of Youth (Grade II)

3/4/2017 Gulfstream Park-Race 13

The Fountain of Youth-$400,000—Grade II

1 & 1/16th Miles on Dirt for Three-Year-Olds

Post Time: 3:05 P.M. PST

Analysis by Michael Patricks

The 71st running of the Fountain of Youth Stakes is this Saturday.  It’s a Grade II affair at Gulfstream Park that’s 1 & 1/16th Miles in distance for three-year-olds.  85 Kentucky Derby points will be distributed among the top four finishers, with 50 points dedicated to the winner.  Irish War Cry is the 5/2 morning line favorite coming off his wire-to-wire score in the Grade II Holy Bull over the same surface and distance as Saturday’s event.  Second choice on the line is the Chad Brown-trained Practical Joke, unseen since his two-year-old season, last finishing third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.  A field of 11 will face the starter in Hallandale this weekend and this race will have the nation’s attention focused on it.

A quick note: Unique Bella will run at Santa Anita on Saturday in their 6th race at 3 p.m.  It’s quite possible the most talented three-year-old in training is this classy filly and many fans will no doubt juxtapose plenty of hypotheticals after watching these two races which will run five minutes apart from each other.

1 Huracan Americo 50/1 ML- Somewhat bizarrely handled son of Drosselmeyer, this pony debuted in Peru last September and failed to hit the board against maidens while sprinting and then stretched out 5 & ½ more furlongs to take down a Group 1 event in Peru as a two-year-old.  He will have to take a similar step forward in the Fountain of Youth to cause any imprint on the Richter scale of this event.  Given his four month layoff, ship to America, and combine that with the fact he’s running in what appears to be the strongest three-year-old prep racing has had this year, you see why he’s 50/1.  He grabs Lasix and the cagey Edgar Prado for his North American debut but he is going to need a lot more than that to make everyone’s jaw drop; the deck just seems stacked against him.

2-Gunnevera 7/2 ML- Didn’t have the smoothest of journeys in the Holy Bull, yet acquitted himself quite nicely by rallying past Classic Empire with no problem whatsoever in finishing second to Irish War Cry.  Irish War Cry was sharp as a tack last time out and found his high cruising speed on the front end without being pestered.  In short, the best Gunnevera was going to do last time was chase him around the track in a merry-go-round sort of performance.  The pace figures to be a lot more to Gunnevera’s desire and it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see Irish War Cry in the top flight, but sitting off the embattled leaders.  Javier Castellano should be able to spy Irish War Cry and time his move from there, figuring that one is certainly the horse to beat.  Note that Gunnevera’s signature performance came second off the layoff last time out in the Delta Downs Jackpot, and so I’m inclined to give him one more try figuring the speed and setup should have him salivating; admittedly picked him last time out so I’m chasing him a bit, but think it’s his turn today.

3-Quinientos 50/1 ML- Seventh time was the proverbial charm for him, graduating while sprinting over the Gulfstream Park surface last December.  Inasmuch as he was a surprise to get up that day, his connections promptly gave him a nice refresher before bringing him back against restricted runners in a small Stakes race where he was 31/1 in a five horse field and soundly beaten.  Now he enters a Grade II that could have the quality of a Grade I and appears overmatched at best.  Perpetual optimists would say that his connections are just rolling the dice, since anything is possible with young and improving horses.  Realists would say it’s far more likely that this guy is going to have the dots blown right off his dice.  Quinientos translated into English means “Five Hundred”.  And while it’s doubtful he’ll be Quinientos a uno in this race, he very well may run just like it; not for all the tea in China.

4-Talk Logistics 20/1 ML- He’s got some ability but he’s been too ambitiously placed up to this point and that theme continues once again by entering him here.  Splitting a Grade II field like he did last time is one thing.  However, given the fact they came in at such…long…intervals tells you everything you need to know.  Can he make up 14 lengths on Irish War Cry?  No, he can’t.  How about better than 10 lengths on a troubled Gunnevera who figures to improve?  No.  Classic Empire was an absolute mess and he still handled this guy by better than five.  Jockey and trainer have combined to go 2-for-28 since 2016 and are 0-for-18 together at Gulfstream spanning that same time frame.  If everything breaks his way, it’s conceivable he could drop anchor and use his bucket to mop up for fourth.  Ignore this impeachment evidence and you’ll likely get the verdict you deserve when the gates open on his cross-examination, leaving just yourself to blame.

5-Beasley 6/1 ML- Has run credibly against allowance foes at the meet but has settled for runner-up finishes in his last two contests.  Like his father Shackleford, Beasley is a flat out trier and you can expect him to run hard throughout.  He appears to be like a bicycle in that the harder you pedal on him the faster he will go.  The Beyer speed figures are on the improve and he is cut out to be a nice runner.  A little turned off that this will be his fourth rider in as many starts and it would have been nice to see him stick it out in either of his last two finishes.  He’s not impossible, but the 6 to 1 morning line feels a bit light when you stack him up against the rest, I’d expect that to double by post time; could spice up some of your exotics underneath, but I’m not taking the bait.

6-Practical Joke 3/1 ML- Gets instant respect off his two-year-old campaign and was last seen picking up black type in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.  He hasn’t missed a beat in the mornings and looks like a horse that will be heard from in his three-year-old season.  The questions surrounding him are twofold: Is he ready to fire fresh?  Also, does he have value?  His debut was a five length score, so he has shown that he can be ready to rock and roll off the layoff.  This race is a tough one for a comeback, but Chad Brown must think quite highly of him to bring him back in this spot and not find an allowance race for him leading up to the Florida Derby (assuming he stays in Florida).  He needs to do some damage in just one of the next two races in order to qualify for the Derby so he may not be fully cranked.  Rosario defects understandably to Irish War Cry, but Brown and Jose Ortiz are connecting at 42 per cent over the last two years so that mitigates any concern.  He may win, but his morning line is difficult to stomach off the layoff, especially given the fact he is going up against other proven horses as well; no doubt one of the ones, but have a hunch he could be a tad short off the layoff.  Keep a watchful eye on him as the three-year-old season continues.

7-Three Rules 12/1 ML- Dominated the local two-year-old circuit last year before endeavoring to spread his wings in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile which went very poorly for him. Encouraged to see his three-year-old debut was strong and returned a positive Beyer speed figure of 92 with it.  Obviously, the connections will put him on the engine and see what happens.  Three Rules did take a restricted stakes event with an 89 Beyer over this same track and distance back in October, so a front end theft is not impossible.  He’s been drilling lights out in his customary fashion and has a nice five furlong bullet in his holster on top of this race.  He’s a lot more intriguing to me at 12/1 than Beasley is at 6/1.  They will have to come and get him over a track he enjoys and it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see him sticking around a lot longer than many expect.  Irish War Cry will have to go get him and I wouldn’t talk you down at 12/1; can’t be dismissed.

8-Irish War Cry 5/2 ML- Jersey-bred son of Curlin enters as the morning line favorite and in search of four straight to begin his career.  He was a mild surprise in his debut, winning from the 12 post at Laurel at 8/1 odds.  He then ran hooked while rank and green, getting the nose down on the wire at odds-on.  The stretch out and addition of Lasix seemed to really suit him well in the Holy Bull as Irish War Cry was able to get into that perfect sweet spot of energy exertion, sweetly taking care of business on the front end while Gunnevera and Classic Empire each did not have their best day at shorter prices.  Assuming he can rate and sit just off the front runners, Irish War Cry figures to get a nice stalking trip, but he must avoid over racing and losing valuable ground around the first turn from this post position.  His price will be shorter and it promises to be more difficult on Saturday than it was last time, but he rates as the one to beat and Graham Motion is probably the most underappreciated trainer in horse racing today.

9-Made You Look 10/1 ML- Turf specialist switches surfaces and riders for trainer Todd Pletcher.  At times, Made You Look has looked like a monster on the sod, posting wins in a Grade II at Saratoga and a Grade III here at Gulfstream.  His workouts on the dirt at Palm Beach Downs have been solid and this is the logical time to experiment and figure out if he can handle the dirt.  It’s a lateral move from Castellano to Velazquez and if he takes to the dirt he really could be any kind, yet Castellano obviously had first dibs and felt that Gunnevera was the better way to go.  Great turf finishers typically save ground and come with one run for home.  That same approach could prove to be quite difficult from a wide draw and quick run into the first turn.  He has significant new hurdles to face in here and I’ll be playing against him, but I do understand those that will want to kick the tires on him and his value in vertical wagers; mixed signals.

10-Takaful 12/1 ML- Jockey Paco Lopez defects from Talk Logistics to ride for Kiaran McLaughlin aboard Takaful.  His form is a bit downtrodden to say the least and he appears to be headed the wrong way on paper, especially given his running lines and declining Beyer numbers.  He ran huge in his debut so he has fired fresh before.  He was favored against El Areeb in the Jerome before he completely fell apart in a turbulent descent off a cliff, turning favorite-backers’ tickets into a smoldering ruin in the process.  His trainer doesn’t run horses that are simply going to be overmatched so he must be doing quite well in the morning.  The ability, breeding, and talent appear to be there and it’s just a matter of whether that is going to emerge in the Fountain of Youth.  His style and post appear to be his chief imposition, however.  Also, just who has been beating him?  It’s my opinion that No Dozing, True Timber, and Bonus Points are some of the lesser-lights participating in the division.  You have my summation about this one’s chances on Saturday.

11-Lookin for Eight 20/1 ML- Improving sort draws criminally for this.  He was very impressive in breaking his maiden last time and has been transferred into the Mark Casse stable for his graded stakes debut.  He would be very intriguing and highly useful with a draw somewhere in the middle, but carving out a passage from this outpost will prove exceptionally difficult.  Don’t be surprised if his connections scratch and shop for another spot, must like So Conflated’s connections did scratching out of the Risen Star to run in Saturday’s Gotham Stakes.  Should he decide to run, you can look for him about eight wide around the first turn while forwardly placed, chasing Three Rules from the death seat before he eventually succumbs to Irish Wary Cry and company.  He will have to be an absolute giant to spot the field this much ground and experience and be in the picture at the end; Dealer’s face card from these past performance dictates you have to stand on 13, even if you’re looking for the eight.

Selections: 2-8-6-7