Brian’s Derby Preps: The Fountain of Youth

Gulfstream Park: The Grade II, $400,000 Fountain of Youth at 1 1/8 miles

#1 Soldat (2-1 ML): Absolutely freaked in local and 3yo debut when catching a sloppy track and running off to a 10 ¾-length win in a N1X in very fast time at this distance. Takes the next logical step to see if that run was for real, though it’s worth noting that this stakes winner on turf has actually never run on fast dirt in three career main track tries. Speedy son of War Front drew beautifully and figures to be sent to the lead again, though with the comebacking To Honor And Serve breathing down his neck, winning this won’t be easy; willing to make him prove he can reproduce his last on fast dirt before backing, especially at underlaid odds.

#2 Gourmet Dinner (5-1): Upset winner of the GIII Delta Jackpot ran very well in the GIII Holy Bull over the track last time and he gets back to a more preferred two-turn trip here, not to mention that he picks up the services of Eclipse Award winner Dominguez. And don’t forget, Mucho Macho Man, who was fourth in the Holy Bull, came back to win last weekend’s GII Risen Star at Fair Grounds in what was the best 3yo prep race so far this spring, so you know this colt does have some quality about him. Not quite sure how far a son of crack sprinter Trippi wants to run (though he did win the Flamingo at this distance), but the more they ask of this guy, the more he seems to give, especially since the blinkers were added last fall; won’t fault anyone thinking this is the upsetter.

#3 El Grayling (15-1): Third to a few of these in a local N1X, but he shortened stride late and now the waters get a lot deeper. The good news is that he does have a 9-furlong race under his belt and a pedigree that screams distance, but the positives seem to end right there; looms an outsider.

#4 Casper’s Touch (6-1): Got the better of ‘Grayling when second last month after a troubled trip and he’s run very well in two U.S. starts since being imported from Europe. His last was his first start in 10 weeks and first start against winners, so you have to believe that there’s still a lot of room for improvement for a colt that has a nice stalk-and-pounce style in a race where the early pace should be honest. Gets the acid test here to see where he stands in the big picture, and he’ll get some support to pull the upset; looms an intriguing player in a relatively weak renewal of this classy GII.

#5 Bowman’s Causeway (20-1): Broke his maiden in solid time over the track and distance in his last and now takes a major step up to the big leagues as he tackles winners for the first time.  Lightly raced and clearly improving, and with just three starts on his resume, there’s tremendous upside in this corner, but the notion of too fast, too soon comes to mind for a colt that would seem better suited for an entry-level allowance race; tough to envision him being a factor.

#6 Racing Aptitude (30-1): Son of the long-striding Aptitude was a stakes winner on the turf as a juvenile but has never lifted a hoof in two main track runs. Finished a troubled seventh in his 3yo debut in a local turf stakes, and though he’s talented, there’s little reason to think he can make a dent here; huge longshot.

#7 To Honor And Serve (8-5): Future Book hotshot makes his first start of 2011 and it’s worth noting that he’s already a graded stakes winner at the distance, that coming in fast time when he annexed Aqueduct’s GII Remsen in his juvenile finale. Plenty of earnings in this corner so there’s no reason to be fully cranked with the first Saturday in May as the obvious goal, not to mention that Mott isn’t really one to press them too hard off the bench. Got no favors from the draw, but his natural speed should ensure that he won’t be too wide into the clubhouse turn, so he should have a nice trip either on or just off Soldat’s lead. Clearly working well for his return, and though you’re probably not going to see his best today. he probably won’t need it either; imposing favorite found a pretty cushy spot to begin his path to Louisville.

#8 Shackleford (8-1): Got the better of both ‘Casper and ‘Grayling when running off late in an N1X earlier in the meet, and he has the look of a real comer on the 3yo scene. Son of Forestry takes the next logical progression into the big leagues and he’s got a nice blend of speed and stamina to bring to the party. His last was his 3yo debut, first start against winners and first start at two turns, so to win like he did speaks volumes of his talent, not to mention advancement as a 3yo. The issue today is his post position, as he drew the parking lot and could be hung extremely wide with the very short run into the first turn. His best shot is to run lapped to ‘Serve’s outside and hope to be in the three-path on the turn, find a nice rhythm on the backstretch and then make his move on the far turn when the real running begins. Circumstances might side against him today but thinking they’ll know his name before too long; talented runner will make the favorite earn it.

Selections:

#7 To Honor And Serve

#2 Gourmet Dinner

#8 Shackleford

5 thoughts on “Brian’s Derby Preps: The Fountain of Youth

  1. I have To Honor and Serve as my top Derby prospects but am under no delusion he’s gonna be wound tight enough for the FOY.

    I am looking for a breakout performance for Casper’s Touch with the two favorites underneath.

  2. John, good to see you on here and I hope to hear from you tomorrow as well!

    Of all the potential upsetters Casper’s Tough crew the best and seems to have the right running style to make some waves, so I definitely could see him post the surprise.

  3. August, great call on Soldat. That was an awesome performance today by a colt that really seems to be blossoming as a 3yo. I know I didn’t think the field was much and it now appears that To Honor And Serve was definitely a short horse, but the way Soldat drew off in the lane after putting away To Honor And Serve and then repelling Gourmet Dinner says a lot about his effort, regardless of the circumstances. He broke the heart of the field during the second quarter and the final time of the race was tons faster than Arch Traveler went earlier on the card. No doubt that run was the definitive statement by a 3yo so far in 2011.

  4. Thanks, Brian, I thought McLaughlin has done a very commendable job with him. I saw that some made the mistake thinking, that he was just a turf horse, who happened to “freak” when he ran last time in the slop. I believed he had a great pedigree dirt or turf, with plenty of distance lovers infused with some really impressive speed influences.

    It’s still early yet, and things change dramatically from day to day, and week to week, going towards the first Saturday in May. I certainly believe that McLaughlin is under no illusion that Soldat will be on the lead in the Kentucky Derby, knowing there are some very fast front running speedsters out there. We’ll see how things develop. Good Luck in any case.

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