The more I handicap the G2 Fountain of Youth Stakes, the more I become convinced that this race is infinitely more wide open than most would have you believe. In other words, Violence is no mortal lock. Thanks to the new points system, we are seeing better racing and tougher fields as the most promising of the crop are facing each other earlier and more often. This year the Fountain of Youth drew a field of 11, the biggest field the race has seen since 2008 when twelve lined up to contest the then mile and an eighth race. Undefeated Violence is the 122 lb high weight and 9-5 morning line favorite. I have to admit that the Pletcher trainee is a worthy high weight, morning line favorite, but there are three other colts that caught my eye.
Falling Sky is the first of the trio that got my attention. He first jumped onto my Dark Horse Derby Picks list with a win in the G3 Sam F. Davis. Despite that win (above) over a good field, I have not heard many talk about him. If his odds stay around the 6-1 mark, then he will be a good value play against the chalky Violence. My biggest concern with Falling Sky is the possibility of landing in the midst of an early speed duel. He is one of six in the field that have shown a preference for being on or near the lead. Generally that is a good thing at Gulfstream, but with so much early speed, it could end up being detrimental.
Like Falling Sky, Majestic Hussar is another of my Dark Horse picks. He will be stretching out beyond 7 furlongs for the first time and is another speedy type. As first glance there does not appear to be much to like about this one, but he solidly defeated Palace Malice last month, showing me that the potential is there.
Rounding out my trio is Elmutahid. I have to admit that I might not have given him a second glance if not for him landing on Pedigree Power blogger Laurie Ross’s watch list. (Read her blog here.) It took him five tries to break his maiden, and he enters tomorrow’s race with that as his sole victory. But what caught my eye was that he notched his first victory when stretching out to 9 furlongs and switching from turf to dirt for the first time. At 20-1 on the ML, he is well worth a play. Like the other two, he shows early speed.
There is a lot to like about many in this field. Orb and Cerro are proven over a route of ground. As long as Sr. Quisqueyano is on or near the pace, he cannot be counted out as he is 7: 3-4-0 when within 2 ½ lengths of the pace (8: 3-4-0 overall). Speak Logistics is another that is dangerous on the lead. He’s Had Enough is quite used to stakes company, and Sky Captain had a good showing while finishing second to Cerro last out. As you can see, it is quite easy to talk oneself into any one of these colts. I was, however, able to completely toss out Joshua’s Comprise. He’s the most experienced in terms of numbers of races, but out of sixteen career starts, he has reached the winner’s circle just once.
This race has the potential to turn into a speed fest. As I already pointed out, six of the eleven in this field are speed types. With the known speed bias at Gulfstream and the number of colts that like to be out there dictating their own terms or pressing the leader, it would not be surprising if the speed fell apart on the front end, leaving known stalkers such as Violence or Cerro to pick up the pieces. Closers such as Orb, Joshua’s Comprise, and He’s Had Enough typically do not do well at Gulfstream, but with all the early speed, you simply cannot count them out. So as you can see, it really could be anybody’s race.