As Gulfstream Park’s major prep for the Florida Derby (Grade I), the Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth (GII) has long been an indicator of future success in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) and the Triple Crown. Eleven winners of the “Run for the Roses” have included a stop in the Gulfstream Park race on their road to the hallowed ground of the Kentucky Derby winner’s circle at Churchill Downs.
But no Fountain of Youth participant has won America’s greatest race since Thunder Gulch swept both races in 1995. Eleven 3-year-old Thoroughbreds will attempt to snap that winless streak on Saturday when they enter the starting gate for the race that will be run at its new distance of one-mile.
Heading the roster of horses already considered strong candidates for the Kentucky Derby are John C. Oxley’s Beethoven and Joseph Rauch and David Zell’s Capt. Candyman Can, the 1-3 finishers in last fall’s Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) at Churchill Downs. The John Ward Jr.-trained Beethoven, an interesting 12-1 shot in the Fountain of Youth morning line, was hampered by an outside post when he finished fourth in his 2009 debut in the Holy Bull (GIII) at Gulfstream, while Capt. Candyman Can (5-1) launched his 3-year-old campaign with a sharp victory in the seven-furlong Hutcheson (GII).
The top two choices in the morning line for Saturday’s race are relative newcomers in Paul Pompa Jr., Jack Mandato and Michael Dubb’s This Ones for Phil (3-1) and Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Notonthesamepage (4-1).
This Ones for Phil was a dazzling winner of the Sunshine Millions Dash at Gulfstream for trainer Rick Dutrow Jr., who saddled Big Brown to win last year’s Derby. Notonthesamepage was an 8 ¼-length winner in the Spectacular Bid (GIII) over the dirt course at the Hallandale, Fla. track.
Other contenders include Shadwell Stable’s unbeaten Taqarub (8-1), winner of the Jimmy Winkfield Stakes at Aqueduct; Nashua (GIII) winner Break Water Edison, who is coming off a disappointing last-place run in the Holy Bull; and Theregoesjojo, a recent allowance winner for trainer Ken McPeek, ridden by three-time Kentucky Derby winner Kent Desormeaux.
The race figures to be a battle of running styles as This Ones for Phil, Notonthesamepage and Taqarub have all displayed blazing front-running speed in their races.
The field for the Fountain of Youth (with jockey) from the rail out: Bee Cee Cee (Cornelio Velasquez); Theregoesjojo (Desormeaux); Notonthesamepage (Elvis Trujillo); Jack Spratt (Rene Douglas); Rocketing Returns (Jose Lezcano); Beethoven (Calvin Borel); Break Water Edison (Eibar Coa); Capt. Candyman Can (Julien Leparoux); Taqurub (Alan Garcia); Quality Road (John Velazquez); and This Ones for Phil (Edgar Prado).
Post time for the Fountain of Youth, the ninth of 10 races, is 5:14 p.m. (Eastern).
WEST/THE PAMPLEMOUSSE LOOKS TO CONTINUE MOMENTUM IN SHAM
The Pamplemousse, named for a popular restaurant near Southern California’s Del Mar racetrack, will look to continue to set the table for a bid for the Kentucky Derby when he faces 11 rivals in Saturday’s $200,000 Sham Stakes (GIII) over the synthetic Cushion Track surface at Santa Anita.
The Julio Canani-trained son of Kafwain will bid for his third consecutive win in the 1 1/8-mile Sham. He started the winning streak with a victory in a 1 1/16-mile maiden race and then won the San Rafael (GII) in his most recent outing. Alex Solis will ride The Pamplemousse, who breaks from post five, and a big effort will make the colt one of the favorites for the Santa Anita Derby (GI) on April 4.
An intriguing opponent is Take the Points, who shipped from Florida to run in the Sham for four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher. The colt made the cross-country journey although he drew the outside post in the race that will mark his debut on a synthetic surface.
Garrett Gomez, the Eclipse Award winner as America’s top jockey in 2007-08, will ride.
The field for the Sham (with jockey) from the rail out: Hi Flyin Indy (Alonso Quinonez); Smart Bid (Rafael Bejarano); Tiz True (Aaron Gryder); Lifeline (Tyler Baze); The Pamplemousse (Solis); Balfour Park (Brice Blanc); Mr. Hot Stuff (Corey Nakatani); Bourbon Bay (Joel Rosario); Ventana (Jesus Rios); Mark S the Cooler (Joe Talamo); Unbridled Roman (Mike Smith); and Take the Points (Gomez).
CANADIAN CHAMP TRIES BORDERLAND DERBY
Canada’s champion 2-year-old of 2008 starts the road to the Kentucky Derby in an unlikely spot as Mine That Bird faces eight rivals in the $100,000 Borderland Derby at Sunland Park.
A three-time stakes winner at Toronto’s Woodbine, the gelded son of Birdstone finished last to U.S. champion Midshipman in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI). The Borderland Derby will be the first start for Mine That Bird since he moved to the barn of trainer Bennie Woolley Jr.
Mine That Bird is the 4-1 second choice in the field of nine 3-year-olds in the Borderland Derby. The 3-1 morning line favorite is Scorewithcater, who is coming off an allowance win for trainer Doug O’Neill over the synthetic Pro-Ride surface at Santa Anita.
MIDWEST/PARADE CLOWN, FITZASLEW HEAD BATTAGLIA MEMORIAL
Donamire Farm’s Parade Clown will shoot for his second consecutive stakes win over the synthetic Polytrack surface at Nothern Kentucky’s Turfway Park when he faces seven rivals in Saturday’s $100,000 John Battaglia Memorial.
The 1 1/16-mile Battaglia is major prep for the $500,000 Lane’s End Stakes (GII), Turfway’s major Kentucky Derby prep that is scheduled to be run on March 21.
Parade Clown won the WEBN Stakes at Turfway last time out and winning jockey Bill Troilo will return to the saddle for trainer Katherine Ball. Other major contenders include the Ken McPeek-trained Fitzaslew, runner-up in a recent allowance race at Gulfstream Park, and Proceed Bee, winner of the Grand Canyon on turf at Churchill Downs but fifth to Flat Out in the Smarty Jones at Oaklawn Park.
BAFFERT AMONG FINALISTS FOR HALL OF FAME
Three-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Bob Baffert and two of his best horses are among the 11 finalists for election in 2009 to Thoroughbred racing’s Hall of Fame. Baffert’s Silverbulletday, winner of the 1999 Kentucky Oaks (GI), and Point Given, the 2001 “Horse of the Year” and beaten favorite in that year’s Kentucky Derby, are also finalists. Baffert won the Derby with Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998) and War Emblem (2002).
Trainer Ken McPeek said Free Country, beaten favorite in the Sam F. Davis (GIII) at Tampa Bay Downs, would run next in the Louisiana Derby (GII) on March 14 at Fair Grounds. … Reigning U.S. juvenile champion Midshipman heads a list of 183 horses nominated to the $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass (GI) at Keeneland on April 11. Missing from that roster is unbeaten early Derby favorite Old Fashioned, but trainer Larry Jones did nominate stablemate and Risen Star (GIII) winner Friesan Fire.