The action on the road to the Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve intensifies Saturday with another edition of the Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park, a steppingstone prep for the Xpressbet Florida Derby. The winner will get 50 qualifying points for the run for the roses, which should ensure that 3-year-old a spot in the Derby field. Given some of the top horses who have won the race, it could very well be a showcase for a rising star. Since 2012, the 1 1/16-mile stakes has been captured by two horses who went on to post a Triple Crown victory.
1. Candy Tycoon (15-1): Comes off a sharp front-running victory at Gulfstream at today’s distance. The final time was good enough to make him a factor and drawing the rail should help him get brave on the front end. He’ll be tested for class for here and considering his connections it would not be surprising if he passes it.
JOCKEY: Manny Franco TRAINER: Todd Pletcher
2. Makabim (50-1): A year ago, the Florida Derby was won by a horse who ran in a $16,000 maiden claimer, so seeing that Makabim was claimed three starts back for $12,500 does not necessarily make him a tossout. Rather it was his third-place finish that day and an uninspiring fifth-place finish in a seven-furlong stakes in his last start that paints him as an overmatched entrant.
JOCKEY: Miguel Vasquez TRAINER: Daniel Hurtak
3. Masterday (30-1): Won his debut in impressive fashion then was well-beaten by Ete Indien and a distant second in his first try at two turns in allowance company. Others are much more appealing.
JOCKEY: Cristian Torres TRAINER: Gilberto Zerpa
4. The Falcon (50-1): Can’t see him soaring past his rivals here. He’s a maiden after two starts and in his lone start on dirt, he was second in a maiden claimer. The odds seem stacked against him.
JOCKEY: Marcos Meneses TRAINER: Anthony Quartarolo
5. Dennis’ Moment (2-1): The TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile definitely wasn’t his moment as he lost all chance when he stumbled at the start and then wound up last. His first three starts were good enough to make him the 4-5 favorite in the Juvenile and if he reverts to that form here the late closer will be tough to deny in a race filled with speedsters who drew the outside posts. Have to wonder, though, if we’ll see his A-game off a layoff of nearly four months.
JOCKEY: Flavien Prat TRAINER: Dale Romans
6. As Seen On Tv (9-2): Pressed the early pace and then engaged in a lively stretch duel with Chance It in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes at a mile, losing by a head. He certainly appears like a main contender but there’s a strong chance that he might bounce off such a grueling effort, especially with an abundance of speed on hand.
JOCKEY: Paco Lopez TRAINER: Kelly Breen
7. Country Grammer (15-1): Trainer Chad Brown gave him about 3 ½ months off after everything fell into place when he debuted on dirt in his second start. He has the look of a 3-year-old who will relish two turns and he’s in the right hands to get better with each start. The possibility of getting a runner from Brown’s barn at double-digit odds is very enticing.
JOCKEY: Javier Castellano TRAINER: Chad Brown
8. Gear Jockey (20-1): He was third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf presented by Coolmore America as a maiden at 67-1 odds, but then faltered on dirt when entered in a maiden race for his next start. Can’t get enthusiastic about him off a 6 ½-length loss in that maiden race.
JOCKEY: Julien Leparoux TRAINER: Rusty Arnold
9. Liam’s Lucky Charm (15-1): Developed a nice rivalry with Chance It at 2, and then was an impressive stakes winner at Tampa Bay Downs in his 3-year-old debut. Looked like an attractive option in the Risen Star but then broke through the gate before the start and that’s never a good omen. So ignore the 22 ¾-length loss last time and give him a second chance at his favorite track.
JOCKEY: Edgard Zayas TRAINER: Ralph Nicks
10. Shotski (10-1): He turned in a courageous effort to finish second in the 1 1/8-mile Withers at Aqueduct. The shorter distance will help but from post 10 in a race with plenty of speed in the field, he faces a challenge that figures to be bigger than his odds.
JOCKEY: John Velazquez TRAINER: Jeremiah O’Dwyer
11. Ete Indien (8-1): He was second to Tiz the Law in the Holy Bull and that stamps him as a top contender here. Yet he also has early speed and from post 11 with a short run to the first turn, he’s likely to be carried wide and that could catch up with him in the stretch.
JOCKEY: Florent Geroux TRAINER: Patrick Biancone
12. Chance It (7-2): He’s never been worse than second in six starts and showed tremendous grit while beating As Seen On Tv in the Mucho Macho Man, yet the draw may have ruined his chances. He’ll need plenty of racing luck to avoid a difficult trip and while he has plenty of talent, the prospect of considerable ground loss weakens his appeal at a relatively low price on the tote board.
JOCKEY: Tyler Gaffalione TRAINER: Saffie Joseph Jr.
THE PICK: Country Grammer
LIVE LONGSHOT: Liam’s Lucky Charm