Tom Pedulla presents five takeaways from the Xpressbet.com Fountain of Youth Stakes racecard on Saturday at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Fla.:
SMART MOVE: Trainer Dale Romans’ decision to have jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. send Promises Fulfilled was a difference-maker in the Fountain of Youth. That strategy allowed the Shackleford colt to overcome the farthest outside starting position in a field of nine while capitalizing on a speed-favoring surface. “I thought that he could open up and he did,” said Romans. “It was a bunch of fast horses, but a lot of times that speed doesn’t materialize, and coming from the outside, it kind of pressed our hand. On the turn, if you wait to see what everybody else does, you’re going to be hung wide. I just told the jock, ‘Push the pedal and try to open up and see where they go from there.’“
NOT SO MAGICAL: As good as Chad Brown is as the winner of the Eclipse Award honoring North America’s leading trainer each of the last two years, as much as he did to prepare Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Good Magic for his highly-anticipated 3-year-old debut in the Fountain of Youth, sometimes there is nothing like an actual race to prepare a horse for what lies ahead. It sure looked that way when a weary Good Magic returned at the end of the 1 1/16-mile prep. “The horse came back a little tired,” Brown said. “He was blowing pretty good. Hopefully, he got what he needed out of it and go on to the next step.” That is expected to be the $1 million Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 7.
ENCOURAGING SECOND: Strike Power responded well to his first test around two turns by placing second to Promises Fulfilled after the aggressive winner took him out of his accustomed position as front-runner. The son of champion sprinter Speightstown had led at every call in his first two starts, at 5 ½ and then seven furlongs. He tracked Promises Fulfilled from second position throughout and appeared comfortable doing so. But there was no catching the pacesetter. “Hopefully, he can keep moving forward,” trainer Mark Hennig said.
SALUTING SHUG: Anyone who has ever dealt with Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey had to rejoice when he earned his 2,000th career victory with Fly So High in the Grade 2 Davona Dale Stakes. As one who wrote a diary with the Lexington native before and after Orb presented him with an elusive Kentucky Derby triumph in 2013, I know firsthand that he is a gentleman who exudes class. Not surprisingly, he made sure to credit others with helping him to his milestone triumph.
BRISK BUSINESS: It took 14 races to accomplish it, but Gulfstream Park set a record for handle during its 72nd Fountain of Youth Day. The handle of $28,541,305 represented a 6.92 percent increase over the mark of $26.693 million set last year, when 13 races were carded. In what should be a boon for the $1 million Xpressbet.com Florida Derby, Romans has targeted that March 31 prep for Fountain of Youth winner Promises Fulfilled.