The promising Todd Pletcher-trained colt, Violence, headlines a field of 11 Kentucky Derby hopefuls this Saturday in the $400,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream Park.
The impressive son of Medaglia D'Oro out of the Gone West mare, Violent Beauty, is unbeaten in three starts on three different race tracks.
He shipped West on his last race to win the Cash Call Futurity (G1) over Hollywood Park's cushion track, beating a nice field of 11 two year olds. The field included Derby hopefuls Oxbow—running in the Risen Star (G2)—and He's Had Enough, who will challenge him here again.
Violence won drawing clear on that race and he has kept improving with every race. His last work for this race, five furlong in 1:00.20—the best that day for the distance—shows he is primed and ready for his three-year-old debut.
There is plenty of speed on this race for him to run just off the leaders and win with a sweeping move. The nation's leading jockey Javier Castellano will be back aboard, and he is definitely the horse to beat in this race.
A win here is worth 50 points for the new Kentucky Derby points system that replaced the previous graded-stakes earnings system to determine the field of Derby entrants.
The Fountain of Youth awards the Top 4 finishers 50, 20, 10 and five points, respectively.
Irish-bred Cerro got his first win on American soil in his last race, an optional claiming front-running job here in Gulfstream Park last Jan. 26.
The stakes are much higher for this race and he won't be able to get an easy lead like he did last time. But he has shown he can play the stalker game, ad has been steadily improving with each start.
The bad news for the Graham Motion-trained colt, is that Castellano and Joel Rosario, who have ridden him in his last three races, opted for different horses here.
Majestic Hussar went wire-to-wire when he won his last race in an optional claiming race last Jan. 19 at Gulfstream Park and will likely be the pacesetter again here.
This will be his first try around two turns, but the biggest question with him comes with the fact that his two wins have come on the slope and his second place on a good track.
His only bad race came on a fast track, and that was on the Hopeful (G2) last year against Shanghai Bobby, finishing seventh beaten by 14 lengths.
Jockey Luis Saez will take the reins for the first time. His regular jockey Jose Lezcano will be riding Risen Star favorite Normandy Invasion on Saturday at Fair Grounds.
Falling Sky survived an objection after drifting out in the stretch of the Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) on his last race. He led wire-to-wire, but it looked more like he was tiring on that race, and that would be a concern with all the speed in this race.
At least he showed two races back, that he can sit off the likely pacesetter Majestic Hussar and overtake him in the stretch.
He improved his Beyer figures on the Sam Davis, and this is now his second start around two turns and under the training of John Terranova. Jockey Jose Espinoza, who rode him on his Sam Davis win, will be back to ride him.
Trainer Doug O'Neill had a tough choice to make after the post positions were drawn for the Risen Star and the Fountain of Youth. He cross-entered He's Had Enough on both races and on both he got outside posts that don't favor his colt.
This race was apparently the lesser of the two evils, but it might not necessarily be a given that it will be the best race for him to earn points.
His second place in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1), has generated maybe more buzz and expectations for him and might be an overrated horse. He was soundly beaten by Violence in the Cash Call Futurity (G1) and has to make a huge leap in his Beyer figures to win this race.
Sky Captain will be making his third start after his five-month lay off, and has lost to Falling Sky, Majestic Hussar and Cerro (IRE) on his previous two starts.
His last was his debut around two turns and had to try and catch free running Cerro (IRE) in the stretch, settling for being second best that day.
Sky Captain improved enough on that last race to show he can make another leap and contend here.
Patrick Husbands is one of the top jockeys in Canada and returns to ride him. Husbands and trainer Mark Casse have teamed for many wins. The speed up front can help him this time and the ride of a patient Husbands could help his cause.
On his last race at the Sam Davis (G3), Speak Logistics looked like the better horse with a big move around the turn. But he had to be pulled when the space he had tightened up and lost all momentum there.
He was never able to regain his rally and finished fourth. Jockey Joel Rosario picks up the mount for trainer Edward Plesa Jr. and these two have been teaming up for wins on this meet.
Orb is the intriguing bet here. He has won his last two races, and his maiden win two races ago. He defeated the highly touted Withers Stakes (G3) winner, Revolutionary.
On his debut, Orb had a slow start, was forced six-wide at the quarter-pole and closed ground to finish third just a length behind Violence and a neck behind well-regarded Titletown Five.
Although Joel Rosario, who has been aboard for all his races, opted to ride Speak Logistics, he picks up the mount of Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez.
Velazquez and Orb's trainer, fellow Hall of Famer, Shug McGaughey, are a winning team of many big races, and could very well team up for another one here.
Put the steadily improving Orb on all your bets.
Joshua's Comprise, Elmuthaid and Sr. Quisqueyano complete the field.
Win - Violence
Place - Orb
Show - Speak Logistics
Fountain of Youth Stakes | Grade 2 | Purse: $400,000
Gulfstream Park | 11th Race | Post Time: 5:35 p.m. ET
Distance: 1700 Meters (8.5 furlongs)
|1 ||Orb||John R. Velazquez||Cluade R. McGaughey III||12/1|
|2||Joshua's Comprise||Corey J. Lanerie||Barry R. Rose||30/1|
|3||Violence||Javier J. Castellano||Todd A. Pletcher||9/5|
|4||Majestic Hussar||Luis Saez||Eddie Kenneally||6/1|
|5||Elmuthaid||Joe Bravo||Kirana P. McLaughlin||20/1|
|6||Cerro (IRE)||Joseph S Rocco Jr||H.Graham Motion||4/1|
|7||Sky Captain||Patrick Husbands||Mark Casse||10/1|
|8||Speak Logistics||Joel Rosario||Edward Plesa jr||12/1|
|9||He's Had Enough||Mario Gutierrez||Doug O'Neill||8/1|
|10||Falling Sky||Jose L. Espinoza||John P. Terranova II||6/1|
|11||Sr. Quisqueyano||Carlos A. Olivero||Luis Olivares||30/1|
Morning Line odds by drf.com.