Brian’s Derby Preps 2015: The Fountain of Youth

Gulfstream Park: The Grade II, $400,000 Fountain of Youth at 1 1/16 miles (Kentucky Derby qualifying points 50-20-10-5)

by Brian Nadeau

#1 Juan and Bina (20-1): Price player won’t get much tote respect but actually ran quite well when fourth to today’s leading trio in the local prep, the GII Holy Bull last month, and, judging by that effort and his dud in the one-turn Mucho Macho Man here in early January, it’s pretty obvious that he relishes two turns. Son of Indian Charlie drew perfectly and figures to be closer to the early lead after he fought a bit while trying to be rated last time, which is a necessity over this speedy oval. Delgado is having a fine meet, and aside from the top pair there’s not a ton to be scared of in here, at least at this juncture, so with his proven track record going long and nice post position, you could do a lot worse than sliding him into the bottom of your exotics; plenty of appeal underneath.

#2 Bluegrass Singer (8-1): Speedster was a sharp wire-to-wire winner of the Mucho Macho Man, then was pressed into the ground in Upstart’s tour de force in the Holy Bull before finishing third, in what was his two-turn debut on the main track. Vitali runner is certainly eligible to improve off that initial run, and you would think this trip is within his scope, as he’s  a son of Bluegrass Cat,  but it was also readily apparent to the eyes that he’s much more suited to one-turn races after he backed up steadily last time. The pace doesn’t get much better in here, either, as he once again draws inside, which means he’ll have to run hard early, fend off the two favorites–who will be breathing down his neck–and then fend off the closers, which doesn’t seem very plausible; taking a big stand against in all the slots.

#3 Frammento (30-1): Decided longshot will add blinkers for Zito off a complete dud in the Holy Bull, when he was a well-beaten sixth after being listless early. Those in the know will remember the hood being a potent move for the Hall of Famer back in the day, but of late he’s just 1-for-12 from a very small sample, so you have to wonder if the equipment change is more hope than anything else, as this Midshipman colt was in decent form before the Holy Bull but simply looked outclassed in there. Fans of this barn will get their guy at a big price, and we’ve seen Zito upset the apple cart time and again with runners who seemingly have little to no hope on paper, but with two monsters to the outside, it’s tough to think this guy can do anything more than crack the bottom rung of the exotics, and even that seems iffy; not seeing it.

Gorgeous Bird and Joel Rosario at Gulfstream Park. Photo credit Leslie Martin

Gorgeous Bird and Joel Rosario at Gulfstream Park. Photo credit Leslie Martin

#4 Gorgeous Bird (6-1): The most intriguing of the new shooters looked great drawing off by 7 lengths in a one-turn optional claimer going a mile over the local strip last time, and it’s clear that he’s come a long way in a short period of time for Wilkes. Whitney homebred son of Unbridled’s Song has some big, big names in his pedigree, as mom was a daughter of Kentucky Oaks winner Bird Town, who herself was a half-sister to Belmont and Travers hero Birdstone, so you know right away that he’s cut out to be a runner, and anyone who saw his local debut knows that there’s talent here. On the face of it, this is a sizable class rise, but they all have to start somewhere, so this is a logical progression, though it must be noted that this is also his two-turn debut, so yeah, the hurdles are set pretty high here. The price should be right if you believe, and he’s obviously heading in the right direction, so if you’re a fan you better get him now, because all value will be gone if he runs another smasher; the wildcard certainly has some appeal.

#5 Itsaknockout (4-1): Pletcher newcomer gets the proverbial acid test after upping his career record to 2-for-2 when he was just off a lightning pace in a dominant one-turn optional claiming win over the track going a mile in early January, and he figures to make life difficult on the lead for ‘Singer. Lemon Drop Kid colt is bred to relish the additional turn and extra distance he gets today, and he drew perfectly for his stakes and route debut, as Saez should be able to gauge the proceedings to his inside and act accordingly, which gives him a nice tactical edge on the rest of the field. And for once, you’ll actually get a decent price on a potential up-and-coming Pletcher hotshot 3-year-old, as opposed to taking an underlaid one, so if you’re a believer, then swing away by all means, because like the guy next door, you won’t get any value next time if he runs a biggie; won’t fault anyone for trying to sneak him into the number.

#6 Frosted (5-2): The first of the two heavyweights was a distant second to Upstart in the Holy Bull, in what was his seasonal bow, but there are several reasons to think he can close the gap today, if not turn the tables completely. First, he draws a bit better, as last time from the rail he was shuffled back early, then hemmed in inside a bit when the real running began, which is probably not the trip this long-striding son of Tapit wants. Second, the blinkers go on today, so he should be closer to the early lead, especially second off the layoff, as there’s no doubt McLaughlin was using that last start as nothing more than a stepping-off point to what he hopes is a big, big campaign. Of course, don’t be naïve enough to think he wins last time with a better trip, as his main rival simply blew his doors off by 5 ½ lengths, so just because of the draw and blinkers, he’s not going to click his hooves together and be right there next to Upstart. There’s little doubt that going forward, as the distances increase and the tracks play a bit fairer, he’s the one you want, but today, over this strip at this distance, beating the imposing chalk won’t be easy; second-best, at least for now.

Upstart and Jose Ortiz winning the Holy Bull. Photo credit Lauren King

Upstart and Jose Ortiz winning the Holy Bull. Photo credit Lauren King

#7 Upstart (8-5): The deserving heavy favorite was simply stunning when he won the Holy Bull as he pleased in his seasonal bow for Violette and rightfully jumped up the ladder on many people’s Derby lists, as that was by far the best run of any sophomore this season. And sure, he got all the best of it that day by pressing soft splits and (potentially) cheap speed in ‘Singer, who doesn’t want to run this far, but also don’t overlook the fact that he pulled that trip because he could. It was there for anyone else, too, and they spun their wheels behind what was a very slow pace for the level, so his win was certainly on the up-and-up. Bounce theorists will be out in full force today, as this New York-bred son of Flatter ran far and away his best career number, but the reality of the situation is that he can bounce and still win, because even if Frosted does improve as expected, he’s still got 5 ½ lengths to make up. The draw is perfect as well, as it gives Ortiz all the options here, and it’s not like this colt is a need-the-lead type, as he stalked and won as a 2-year-old, so, right now, there appear very few chinks in a suit of armor that looks far too good for these, at least at this point; onward and upward.

#8 Danny Boy (15-1): Deep closer picks a tough spot and track to make his 3-year-old debut, as his lack of speed puts him behind the eight ball over a strip that doesn’t play kindly to stretch runners, so he’s up against it from a tactical standpoint. And that’s before you factor in that he’s run only once on the main track, which was a decent fourth-place finish in Churchill Downs’ GIII Iroquois in September, in only his second career start. Credit Romans for stepping up and taking a shot with this son of Harlan’s Holiday, last seen finishing a close eighth in the BC Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita in November, and don’t forget, he’s done some mighty good work with a few  Donegal Racing 3-year-olds who were thought to be turf/synthetic specialists before trying the dirt (think Dullahan and Paddy O’Prado). Of course, that doesn’t mean anything for this colt, who wasn’t that fast on turf to begin with, which means he’s clearly up against it with a few salty dirt runners entered; needs the green stuff to show his best.

Selections:

#7 Upstart

#6 Frosted

#4 Gorgeous Bird

 

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