Gulfstream Park: The Grade II, $400,000 Fountain of Youth at 1 1/16 miles
#1 Neck ‘n Neck: Adds blinkers off an extremely wide fifth-place run in Tampa’s GIII Davis and will really need to step up his game against this tough group. Bred to be a nice runner and has a pedigree to suggest he’ll appreciate this trip, but this is asking a lot; longshot.
#2 Algorithms: Update: scratched as of Sunday morning. Pletcher runner made it 3-for-3 with a resounding win over 2yo champion Hansen in the local GIII Holy Bull and now he’ll attempt to pass another test—two turns—for the first time today. He’s looked brilliant in every start, but the waters get deeper today and you wonder if that freaky run last time was aided by a sloppy surface. It’s also worth noting that Hansen was hardly primed that day, entering off a layoff and running at an unfamiliar one-turn, so with little else in the race, this colt almost had to win. With that being said, that score was a real beauty and stamps him as the one to beat today, questions and all; formidable.
#3 Fort Loudon: Capable homebred has done some good things in his career but finished a distant fourth in the Holy Bull, his seasonal debut, and has blinked more often than not when testing this kind. Still, that Holy Bull was leaps and bounds better than he did as a 2yo and it’s never a bad thing to see a sophomore return and run a career-best. So, unless it was slop-aided, there’s a chance that he’s simply a better and more seasoned horse this year, which means maybe he can crack the number; could hit the board at a big price.
#4 Casual Trick: Made a name for himself by running a good second in the local GP Derby but then was nowhere in a snazzy optional claimer here last time over a good and sealed track (note what the winner, El Padrino does, in Saturday’s Risen Star at Fair Grounds). If you think that last was simply a toss out over the tricky surface, then you might have something here, but still, can he come back in four weeks’ time after being beaten over 30 lengths and factor against a group like this?; not bloody likely.
#5 Discreet Dancer: Yet another of Pletcher’s undefeated and untested 3yo’s, this colt has run away to a pair of local wins and will now get the acid test as he tries stakes runners and two turns for the first time. Figures to head straight to the front and set the pace and the lead is there for the taking, so an uncontested front-running trip is not out of the question. As a son of Discreet Cat, he’s not bred to love this trip, but it figures to be within his range and when you’re immensely talented and get a positive race flow, you tend to be able to do a lot of damage; call to run them all into the ground.
#6 News Pending: Brings some decent turf form to the fray but has yet to do much in a trio of main track starts, so you get the impression Romans is just throwing something against the wall and hoping it sticks. Colt has picked it up of late but any time you’re running in the GII Fountain of Youth and you’re eligible for a N1X, it’s tough to endorse; easy toss.
#7 Union Rags: Tough as nails 2yo ran a winning race in the BC Juvenile but had a nightmare trip and just missed to Hansen, which cost him an Eclipse Award in the process. Returns for the first time as a 3yo and will have to show everyone that he’s as big and tough as he was last year, when it was possible he was beating up on horses that had yet to reach their peak development. Answered the two-turn test in the Juvenile, but with the Derby in mind and plenty of graded stakes earnings in the bank, does Matz really care about emptying the tank this early in the year?; respect his talent, but will play against today.
#8 Csaba: Makes his first start of the year after a modest 2yo campaign that saw him win a sloppy two-turn race at Calder in a race that was washed off the turf. Drew poorly today and was fifth in his only stakes start, so he’s far out of his element today; not seeing it.
#5 Discreet Dancer
#7 Union Rags