The Grade 2, $400,000 Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes brings together a field of 12 at Gulfstream Park, each hoping to earn the winner's share of 85 total points on the road to the Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve and move on to the Florida Derby in four weeks or one of the other significant prep races before the first Saturday in May. One of the biggest questions surrounding this year's Fountain of Youth is whether Dennis' Moment will break cleanly which he did not do in the Grade 1 TVG Breeders' Cup Juvenile, finishing last of eight. The next question is if he does whether he is the same horse as last summer when winning the Grade 3 Iroquois Stakes under wraps.
Of the 11 horses trying to beat the likely public betting choice, As Seen On Tv, Chance It, and Ete Indien appear to have an edge on the balance of the field. Chance It won the Mucho Macho Man Stakes at Gulfstream Park last month, with As Seen On Tv a head behind in second. The third-place finisher in the race, Sole Volante, proved the race was productive by winning the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis Stakes earlier this month. Ete Indien enters the Fountain of Youth following a runner-up effort behind Tiz the Law in the Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes four weeks ago and is a stakes-proven runner in this quality field. Shotski is another horse proven at the level, having won the Grade 2 Remsen Stakes last fall before a runner-up effort in the Grade 3 Withers Stakes to start his sophomore campaign. Recent maiden winners Candy Tycoon and Country Grammer hope to step up and run competitively as well. Liam's Lucky Charm won the Pasco Stakes at seven furlongs in January but his two route tries to date resulted in third- and 10th-place finishes. Makabim has been running in claiming level races, while Gear Jockey and The Falcon are both maidens in this stakes field, noting however Gear Jockey finished third at 67-to-1 odds in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf presented by Coolmore America. Masterday rounds out the field off a runner-up effort in an allowance race and he is running in a stakes race for the first time.
There is no doubt Ete Indien comes into the Fountain of Youth out of the fastest race of any road to the Derby event this year. After setting the early pace for the first seven furlongs in the Holy Bull Stakes on February 1, Ete Indien was no match for winner Tiz the Law but was clearly second by 11 lengths over the next horse. The winner earned a 117 Equibase Speed Figure, which to my recollection is unheard of at this time of year for a 3-year-old, and Ete Indien earned a 113 figure which towers over the field. It's a legitimate figure and his effort was legitimate as he was responsible for the fast early fractions. Since the race, trainer Patrick Biancone put Ete Indien through his paces in the morning with an extremely sharp seven furlong workout on grass in 1:23.2 followed by another strong workout, getting a half-mile in 48 seconds over the deep Palm Meadows surface. Although his sire, Summer Front, was a millionaire and multiple stakes winner, those races were on grass and his progeny have few dirt starts. Just the same, Ete Indien has proven he can run on dirt and unless another horse takes a huge step forward, he should win the Fountain of Youth Stakes.
As Seen On Tv and Chance It can also run well enough to win the Fountain of Youth particularly if Ete Indien doesn't run as expected. As Seen On Tv was beaten a head by Chance It in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes and, in my estimation, has the same probability to win as his foe. However, its highly likely As Seen On Tv will offer higher odds for win bets. In the Mucho Macho Man, As Seen On Tv stalked in second for the first half-mile then battled head-and-head for the entire rest of the race, barely giving an inch until the late stages. The Mucho Macho Man has turned out to be a key race since the horse who was 2 ¼ lengths behind As Seen On Tv in third place, Sole Volante, returned to win the Sam F. Davis Stakes in easy fashion three weeks ago and the sixth-place finisher won his next start. Additionally, fourth-place finisher South Bend lost in a stakes race by a neck and a head on the wire earlier this month. In the Mucho Macho Man, Chance It earned a 102 figure while As Seen On Tv earned a 101 figure and considering Sole Volante improved from a 98 figure to 108, if either colt makes a 10 point improvement they could give Ete Indien all he can handle in this race.
Dennis' Moment can't go without mentioning, not only because of his two wins but also because of his two defeats, both unfortunate races where the start cost him everything. In his debut last June, Dennis' Moment clipped the heels of another horse and lost his jockey and in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last fall he stumbled so badly at the start there was nothing his jockey could do to get him into the race. Prior to that, Dennis' Moment won the Iroquois Stakes by a deceptive 1 ¾ length margin, earning a 99 figure. His workouts off the layoff have been very fast, but returning from almost four months off and running two turns against horses who ran well in stakes races this year is asking a lot in my opinion. As such, I will be taking a stand against Dennis' Moment as a win contender in this race.
Shotski deserves honorable mention, having earned back-to-back 98 figures when winning the Remsen Stakes in December and when second earlier this month in the Withers Stakes. In both races, the only two-turn races of his career, Shotski led early which could be problematic here as there are many horses drawn inside of him which have early speed as well. Just the same, after leading from the start in the Withers, Shotski was very game in holding second to the wire and he is a horse I think we must consider for any exacta or trifecta tickets we play in this race as he could be in the top three at the finish.
The rest of the field, with their best Equibase Speed Figures is Candy Tycoon (95), Country Grammer (95), Gear Jockey (97), Liam's Lucky Charm (104), Makabim (77), Masterday (72) and The Falcon (69).
Win contenders, in probability/preference order:
As Seen On Tv