Robert Baron’s Promises Fulfilled demonstrated promise for the spring classics Saturday at Gulfstream Park, registering a dominating front-running victory in the $400,000 Xpressbet.com Fountain of Youth (G2) and upsetting Eclipse Award champion Good Magic in the process.
The 72nd running of the Fountain of Youth, a 1 1/16-mile prep for the $1 million Xpressbet.com Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream March 31, headlined a 14-race program that offered nine stakes, including eight graded stakes, worth $1.5 million in purses.
Promises Fulfilled, an 18-1 longshot ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr., earned 50 Kentucky Derby qualifying points with his 2 ¼-length triumph to virtually clinch a spot in the field for the first leg of the Triple Crown at Churchill Downs May 5.
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The Dale Romans-trained son of Shackleford broke alertly from his outside post position to grab the early lead on the first turn, chased by Strike Power, the 7-2 second choice in a field of nine 3-year-olds, and stalked by Good Magic, the 3-5 favorite making his first start since capturing the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Del Mar last November. Promises Fulfilled set fractions of 23.80 (seconds) and 48.39 for the half mile as he showed the way along the backstretch, challenged briefly by Storm Runner, a stablemate in the Romans Stable who dropped out of contention soon after. The pacesetter was challenged to the outside by Strike Power on the turn into the homestretch but kicked away to win by a comfortable margin.
2018 Fountain of Youth Replay
“The trainer told me to go to the lead and hold on,” said jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. after scoring his fifth victory on Fountain of Youth card. “When I asked my horse, he just took off again. He was impressive today. He ran the whole race. He broke great and was ready, the trainer was right.”
Romans had entered three horses in the Fountain of Youth but scratched Free Drop Billy Saturday morning while opting to run the Grade 1 stakes winner in the Gotham Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct next Saturday. Promises Fulfilled, who won his first two races before finishing third in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill Downs last year, proved up to the task of getting his trainer to the winner’s circle while making his 2018 debut.
“I had a lot of confidence in this horse because of the way he trained. He trained so well, and the race he ran when he was third was as impressive a race as a horse can run. To do what he did and be as compromised as he was and still run third to two good horses, he’s a special horse,” Romans said. “The way he’s been working over this racetrack, he’ll take his racetrack with him. He doesn’t care where he is.”
Strike Power, who won his debut and the Swale Stakes (G3) during Gulfstream’s Championship Meet, tasted defeated for the first time while finishing 2 ¼ lengths clear of Good Magic.
“I thought he ran well. It was his first time stretching out. He handled it well, the fact that he had to settle off that horse [Promises Fulfilled]. They were dead set on being there. Luis (Saez) said, “We broke sharp. If I tried to go, we’d be going to go too fast.’ He said, ‘Let me just set off him.’ He thought he had him when he switched leads but the horse kept going,” Strike Power’s trainer Mark Hennig said. “I think he got a little tired. He went from 5 ½ (furlongs) to 7 to now this [1 1/16 miles]. Hopefully, he can keep moving forward.”
Good Magic finished two lengths clear of Machismo after racing evenly throughout the Fountain of Youth.
“He got a good trip. He had no trouble and got good position early. The latter part of the race, he didn’t have it. The horses that were 1-2 the whole way just kicked ahead of him,” trainer Chad Brown said. “The horse came back a little tired. He was blowing pretty good. It looked like he needed the race. Hopefully, he got what he needed out of it and go on to the next step.”
Promises Fulfillied ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.17 while stamping himself as a strong contender for the Florida Derby, which has won the past two years by Always Dreaming and Nyquist, who both went on the win the Kentucky Derby.
“If a horse runs good here, you keep them here,” Romans said.
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