Only one week after finishing fourth in the Holy Bull Stakes (G3), John Oxley’s Beethoven was back on the track at Gulfstream Park working out for trainer John Ward, who is now leaning toward running the 3-year-old classic prospect in the $250,000 Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth (G2) on Feb. 28.
“He just went easy and I normally wouldn’t think of working him back so soon, but he was jumping out of his skin,” said Ward, who had to take cover when the son of Sky Mesa literally kicked up his heels next to him, showering him with dirt. “See that? I don’t think it took much out of him.”
Initially Ward was considering waiting all the way until the $750,000 Florida Derby (G1) on Mar. 28, but now the Fountain of Youth at one mile looks like it could bring Beethoven to the eventual goal – a spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate on May 2.
“He’s kind of dictating the training,” said Ward. “He’s tearing the barn down right now. I don’t think it would be fair to him to hold him back for 60 days, and if we draw the outside in the Fountain of Youth, it’s not going to hurt me as much as if we draw it in the Florida Derby.”
Shoes Key to ‘Phil’s’ Emergence, According to Dutrow
When trainer Rick Dutrow – who nursed Big Brown’s delicate hooves to the verge of a Triple Crown sweep last year – starts talking horse shoes, it’s time to take notice.
He’s crediting shoes with the performance of Paul Pompa Jr.’s Sunshine Millions Dash winner This Ones for Phil, and is looking forward to the 3-year-old gelding’s next test in the $250,000 Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth (G2) on Feb. 28 at Gulfstream Park.
The Florida-bred son of Untuttable worked a half-mile in 47 4/5 Saturday morning under exercise rider Walter Blum Jr. Dutrow was excited about the drill and called it one of the gelding’s best in the 10 weeks since he joined his Gulfstream string.
“I’m very happy with him,” said Dutrow. “That was probably the best breeze he’s had since we got him. He’s training excellent and I don’t see any reason why he shouldn’t run just as well in his next race.”
If he runs “just as well” in the Fountain of Youth, a roller-coaster ride, similar to the one Dutrow, Pompa, jockey Kent Desormeaux and the IEAH Stables hopped aboard throughout 2008, could begin again.
This Ones for Phil electrified the Sunshine Millions Day crowd with his 2¼-length victory in the six-furlong Dash against Florida- and California-breds. It was his first start after Pompa purchased the horse and transferred him to Dutrow last November.
This Ones for Phil won an overnight stakes at Calder last September, but he tired to fifth in the In Reality division of the Florida Stallion Stakes series in a performance that seemingly took him off the 2009 Derby trail.
Upon arrival at Gulfstream, Dutrow immediately went to work on This Ones for Phil’s front hooves. He didn’t need the super expensive glue-on shoes that fans heard so much about during Big Brown’s campaign. The solution here was more basic.
“He’s got plenty of foot to work with. It’s not the same thing as Big Brown,” said Dutrow. “He had burned his heels up pretty good running on the dirt at Calder. We put him in shoes that don’t have an opening at the back. That took the pressure off those heels. Before that he was only able to pull himself along. Now he’s able to dig in and push off more.”
Dutrow will have an eye on IEAH Stables’ 3-year-old filly Stardom Bound as she races in the Las Virgenes Stakes (G1) Saturday at Santa Anita. The Breeders’ Cup and Eclipse champion was purchased following her Juvenile Fillies (G1) victory on Oct. 24, and was supposed to be sent to Dutrow.
Instead she continued to train in Southern California with Hall of Famer Bobby Frankel. Dutrow had planned on making the trip west for the race, but instead was happy to patrol his Florida shedrow.
“I’ve got too many horses here with important works coming up to make the trip,” he said while gazing down his barn and playfully tossing a ball at Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (G1) winner Kip Deville. “She’s just one horse. She’s a big one, but there’s plenty here to keep an eye on.”
Keep the Peace Could Return in Hurricane Bertie
Gary and Mary West’s 4-year-old filly Keep the Peace is training steadily at Palm Meadows for trainer Eddie Kenneally as she prepares for her season debut, which could come in next Sunday’s $125,000 Hurricane Bertie Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park.
“She had some minor issues after the Dogwood,” said Kenneally Saturday morning. “We decided to give her time and we’re looking forward to this season. The Hurricane Bertie is possible, but it’s a long season ahead.
“Naturally, we want to win a graded stakes with her, emphasis on ‘win’ after last year. She lost photos to finish second in three graded stakes.”
A New York-bred chestnut by Touch Gold, Keep the Peace hasn’t run since losing a half-length decision to Acoma in the Dogwood Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs on May 31.
Keep the Peace shipped into Palm Meadows last winter after winning her only start as a 2-year-old at Churchill Downs in November and won an ‘a other than’ allowance here by seven lengths in early January.
She stepped up to make her third start as the even-money favorite in the Forward Gal Stakes (G2) in early February and lost a nose decision to Bsharpsonata. In two more starts before the Dogwood, she finished fourth in the Beaumont Stakes (G2) at Keeneland and lost another photo when second by neck behind Game Face in the La Troienne Stakes (G3) at Churchill Derby week.
Keep the Peace was kept on edge Saturday morning at Palm Meadows as she breezed five furlongs in 1:02:85.
Leparoux Takes Lead in Standings with Two Wins Friday
Julien Leparoux, based at Gulfstream Park for the first time this season, had two wins on Friday’s program, sending him to the top of the rider standings with 23 victories, one more than Kent Desormeaux.
That order could change quickly on Saturday as Leparoux travels to New Orleans for a day.
Leparoux has mounts in several stakes at the Fair Grounds, including Tim Brown and Phil Gahm’s 3-year-old Au Moon, a leading contender in the $200,000 Risen Star Stakes (G3) for trainer David Carroll, and returns to Gulfstream for Sunday’s card.
Behind the top two, Jose Lezcano, Edgar Prado and Eibar Coa rank in a three-way tie for third with 18 wins apiece. Lezcano won Saturday’s second race, putting him one short of the 1,000 career-win milestone.
Prado is also at Fair Grounds for the day to ride Virginia Tarra Trust’s Giant Oak in the Risen Star for trainer Chris Block.
Ken McPeek has drawn off to a clear lead in the trainer standings with 13 winners, five more than nine-time Gulfstream champion Bill Mott, who is second with eight. Marty Wolfson and Peter Walder are tied for third with seven each and four others, including the defending champ Todd Pletcher, are next with six apiece.