The $400,000 Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park drew a solid field of 13 with 50 points up for grabs to the winner as part of the Road to the Derby series of races.
Last year’s Fountain of Youth winner was the Shug McGaughey trained Orb, who went on to win the Florida Derby (G1) and the Kentucky Derby (G1). McGaughey is back with one of the major players in Top Billing, who makes his stakes debut on Saturday off an impressive victory against first level optional claimers.
Trainer Todd Pletcher sends out the 3-1 morning line favorite Commissioner, who beat Top Billing by a neck in his last outing on Jan. 3. Pletcher has won three of the last seven runnings of this race, although two of his winners, Quality Road in 2009 and Eskendereya in 2010 did not make it to the starting gate in Louisville due to injuries.
Pletcher will also saddle We Miss Artie (8-1), who was beaten just a head in the Kitten’s Joy on turf in his most recent start.
Along with Saturday’s $400,000 Risen Star (G2) at Fair Grounds, the Kentucky Derby Championship Series of races offer 50-20-10-5 points to the top four finishers. The winners of the two races are virtually assured a starting spot in the gate for the Run for the Roses.
LeComte (G3) winner Vicar’s in Trouble is the 5-2 morning line favorite for the Risen Star. The Mike Maker trainee won the LeComte by 6 ¾ lengths in his first trip around two turns. The race drew 16 with 14 to start. The race lost one contender in Bond Holder, who will be scratched according to his trainer Doug O’Neill after suffering some body soreness on his trip from Southern California.
I will have my selections for the Risen Star as well as the supporting stakes from both Fair Grounds and Gulfstream Park in Saturday’s Best Plays Report.
Let’s head out to Gulfstream Park for Saturday’s featured race of the day:
Gulfstream Park Race 11 The Fountain of Youth G2 (Post time 5:31 ET)
2 We Miss Artie 8-1
12 Top Billing 7-2
1 Commissioner 3-1
5 General a Rod 5-1
Analysis: We Miss Artie looks as if he is going to be a decent price in this wide-open race. The Todd Pletcher trainee makes just his third start on conventional dirt. Last out he tracked the early pace, grabbed the lead heading for home and battled on gamely while coming up a head shy of winning the Kitten’s Joy on turf here off a 2 1/2 month break. The colt won the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) last year on polytrack and then had a tough trip in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) on dirt, beaten four lengths at 12-1. The colt has put in a pair of solid works since his last outing, has some tactical speed, and should be in the first flight early. The Pletcher barn is 30% winners (with a +ROI) moving runners from turf to dirt. The barn has won this race in three of the last seven editions, the most recent being Eskendereya in 2010.
Top Billing was beaten a neck by morning line favorite Commissioner two back in his first start against winners and then came back to beat first level optional claimers last out in a good looking effort that sent his Derby future price plummeting. His trainer Shug McGaughey won this race last year with Orb, who was coming off a first level optional claimer and then went on to win the Florida Derby (G1) and Kentucky Derby (G1). The well-bred colt still appears to have a ton of upside although he does draw a tough post. He is out of the graded stakes winner Parade Queen ($419,357) who has dropped four other winners, top earner graded stakes winner Untouched Talent ($243,550).
Commissioner is sent pout by Pletcher for his stakes debut and like our second choice, this guy also appears to have a ton of upside. He broke his maiden last summer at the Spa in his second career start and then last out edged Top Billing by a neck in a game effort in his first start off a four-month break. The colt is reunited with John Velazquez who was aboard for his maiden win. The colt is out of the stakes winner Flaming Heart (245,961) who has dropped other winners including stakes winner Laugh Track ($555,567) who was the runner up in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1).
General a Rod makes his first start since winning the Gulfstream Park Derby on New Year’s Day. The colt battled on gamely to win by a head over Wildcat Red, who came back to win the Hutcheson (G3) in his next outing on Feb. 1. Two back the Mike Maker trainee ran second against first level optional claimers in his first go against winners, beaten 1 3/4 lengths by Conquest Titan, who ran second in the Holy Bull (G2) in his last start. The colt has worked sharply since his last outing and being by Roman Ruler out of a Dynaformer mare he should have no trouble handling his first start around two turns.
WIN: #2 to win at 9-2 or better.
EX: 2,12 / 1,2,5,12
TRI: 2,12 / 1,2,5,12 / 1,2,4,5,7,12
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