Head to head: Handicapping the 2021 Fountain of Youth

Head to head: Handicapping the 2021 Fountain of Youth
Photo: Gulfstream Park Photo

The end of February brings us the final Florida Derby (G1) prep in the form of the $300,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream Park. We see many of the usual suspects that competed in last month's Holy Bull (G3), namely the top five finishers that day. This year’s Fountain of Youth also draws from the sprint and turf division, while including some questionable entries. For all intents and purposes, this is Holy Bull winner Greatest Honour’s race to lose, but we all know why we actually run the race.

Once again, Laurie Ross of Pedigree Power and Ashley Tamulonis of Coast To Coast sort out the contenders from the pretenders, while possibly seeing eye-to-eye for this event.

 

LAURIE

ASHLEY

1. DRAIN THE CLOCK

Other than losing his rider in the Jean Lafitte Stakes, Drain the Clock is unbeaten and untested – and has never tried two turns. The Saffie Joseph, Jr. trainee has the conformation and pedigree of a sprinter/miler, so 1 1/6-miles may be at the top of his distance range. Fortunately, he’ll get to take the short way around the track, and post 1 favors his free-running style. He is dangerous if they let him get away.

As Laurie indicated, only bad racing luck has prevented Drain the Clock from being perfect in five starts. Unfortunately, this son of Maclean’s Music is untried at two turns. However, he gets the coveted rail position, giving him every opportunity to stretch his speed. If you think he can go alone on the lead, Drain the Clock could be a price play.

2. PRIME FACTOR

Prime Factor was made the even-money favorite in the Holy Bull based on a runaway maiden score against a weak field. Only one runner has returned to win next out. The Pletcher trainee settled into third behind the pace and had a perfect trip. He started going up and down and drifting in the stretch, clearly out of oats. Prime Factor should be stronger this time around, but I am not convinced that he’s as talented as everyone thinks he is.

Prime Factor had every opportunity as the favorite in the Holy Bull. He sat just behind the pacesetters and was poised to strike in the far turn. However, as Greatest Honour cranked up the pressure turning for home, Prime Factor came up empty to finish a non-threatening third. Over-racing or a layoff were not the issue at all. It is hard to ignore a Pletcher runner at Gulfstream, so we’ll see how he fares in the Fountain of Youth.

3. SOSOSUBTLE

This last-out maiden winner against state-breds stretches out and takes a brazen leap into stakes company. Sure he owns the highest Brisnet late-pace figure in the field, but there’s a not-so-subtle difference between beating career maidens and proven stakes horses. There is minor sprint class in Sososubtle’s distaff line, but he looks up against it. Perhaps he will soften up Drain the Clock on the front end.

Talk about a leap of faith jumping from beating state-bred maidens to taking on established graded stakes runners. I know people think they have to take their shot, but sometimes it is best to just stay in the barn.

4. FIRE AT WILL

The question on everyone’s mind is, “Can our Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf hero transfer his form to dirt?” Despite being bred top and bottom for turf and his dam being a half-sister to multiple Grade-2 turf horse Decorated Invader, Fire At Will doesn’t have the high knee action on dirt that is typical of some turf horses. In his Jan. 16 work with 6-year-old veteran Good Old Boy, Fire At Will handled the chewed-up Gulfstream dirt just fine. He refused to let his stablemate by and switched leads effortlessly, without being asked at any point. He won the With Anticipation (G2) over a sloppy Saratoga track, making a move from dead last and returning to the winner’s circle covered in mud. He did not look like a happy horse, but he dug in and got the job done. The question is – can he win off a long layoff?

We have seen a good bit of successful turf to dirt transitions at Gulfstream in recent years. Normally I’d shy away from this type of runner, but like Laurie pointed out, Fire At Will won on a sloppy surface, and Blame the Booze was a stubborn foe that day. I do not like the long layoff, but I am very interested to see what this colt can do in the afternoons on a fast track.

5. JIRAFALES

Jirafales had a slow start in the Holy Bull Stakes and just ran around out there, not showing much of anything. He might show some improvement in his second start of the year, but he will have to up his game tremendously to be a factor.

Jirafales performed just as expected in the Holy Bull – that is to say, he did not show much at all. Considering that he is facing a good bit of the same cast as before, pass.

6. KING'S OVATION

King's Ovation had to steady between horses just before the eighth-pole in the Swale Stakes. He showed athleticism to get back into gear immediately and get up for a clear second place to Drain the Clock. The son of Not This Time has the conformation of a route horse and should enjoy the extra distance. On Feb. 20, the Dale Romans trainee breezed in company with Ultimate Badger, whom he beat in the Swale Stakes. King's Ovation broke off several lengths behind and quickly caught up. However, he refused to pass his stablemate, staying a measured neck behind. He was urged through the wire and received a smack just before the mile pole, to no avail. I question his breeze time of 59:82 for five furlongs, as his stablemate received 1:00.81 for the same work, yet finished slightly ahead. If he improves off his Swale finish, King’s Ovation could be one to look at for a lower exotics ticket.

King’s Ovation sure was full of run in the far turn of the Swale and showed professionalism in checking and re-rallying. I would love to know how he would have finished if he hadn’t lost his momentum. The work Laurie indicated is troubling in that it indicates a bit of herd mentality. Maybe some blinkers to keep him focused?

7. TARANTINO

I liked Tarantino in the Holy Bull Stakes, and the colt had enough speed to finish a clear second at 25-1. Do not expect to get those odds here. The Rodolphe Brisset trainee ran a career-best speed figure, but it leaves plenty of room for him to move forward. 

I was not really sure what to do with Tarantino in the Holy Bull, figuring his effort would be more horror movie than happy ending. Clearly he proved me wrong by running one helluva race to be a clear second that day. I think I have to be more on board this time.

8.  GREATEST HONOUR

Greatest Honour is shaping up as a legitimate Derby horse. He earned a career-best 103 Brisnet Speed Rating in the Holy Bull. Even if he regresses slightly off that number, he’s still the one to beat. The Shug McGaughey runner's breezes at Payson have remained steady, and the colt is bred to improve with maturity.

Greatest Honour’s Holy Bull effort was a thing of beauty, especially considering how game Tarantino was in defeat. This colt’s speed figures have improved with each start, and he appears to be getting hot at the right time.

9. TIZ TACT TOE

Tiz Tact Toe is the Fountain of Youth “Why?” horse. Still a maiden, he was claimed from his last race. Bob Hess, Jr. shakes things up big time, slapping blinkers on the son of Tourist and tossing him into graded stakes company on the dirt. I’m putting an “X” through this one.

Why? Just why? This gelded son of Tourist appears bred for the turf, but he has not given any indication that that’s his preferred surface. You want to take a shot on dirt? OK… but why in the Fountain of Youth? No, but thanks.

10. PAPETU

Papetu showed mild interest in the Holy Bull. He was farther back than usual and had no impact on anything except the superfecta. Post 10 doesn’t do him any favors. Pass. 

I took Papetu on top in the Holy Bull, but unfortunately the best he could do for me was a well beaten fourth. He had the advantage of being more toward the inside then, but this outside draw does not do his favored front-running style any favors.

Final Thoughts

Laurie: Posts eight through 10 are usually the kiss of death at Gulfstream in two-turn races, yet a good horse can win from the outside. Two of the last three Fountain of Youth winners won from outside posts. Favorite Greatest Honour is not an early speed type, so it should not bother him.

Drain the Clock has excellent gate speed, and I expect him to zip out of there and grab the lead. He is capable of relaxing if someone wants to press. This is Greatest Honor’s race to lose. That big triple-digit speed figure concerns me, yet he won with such authority that even if he regresses slightly, he should be able to get the job done. Fire At Will could be the biggest threat. However, only two Fountain of Youth winners got the job done off the layoff in the last decade.

Ashley: No befuddlement here in that Laurie and I seem to concur on this race. After his Holy Bull effort, Greatest Honour absolutely is the one to beat. Drain the Clock loves Gulfstream, and that inside post should aid him in his quest to stretch his speed to a two turn route. Fire At Will could be one that loves any surface, and Tarantino surprised me at least with his gritty second last out. Prime Factor is the big variable here, in that he was heavily favored last out and could only manage third. Maybe he improves here?

Selections

Ashley 

Laurie 

8. GREATEST HONOUR (9-5)

8.  GREATEST HONOUR (9-5)

1. DRAIN THE CLOCK (5-1)

1. DRAIN THE CLOCK (5-1)

4. FIRE AT WILL (7-2)

4. FIRE AT WILL (7-2)

7. TARANTINO (8-1)

7. TARANTINO (8-1) 



Meet Ashley Tamulonis

Despite growing up in a non-horse racing state, Ashley has been a fan of the sport since a young age. Her love for horse racing was fostered through the kids’ book series Thoroughbred by Joanna Campbell, which led her to educate herself on the ins and outs of the sport. Since becoming actively involved in the industry just a few years ago, Ashley has had the opportunity to meet many important players in the industry, attend the Eclipse Awards, see personal favorite Mucho Macho Man race twice in person, and befriend many of the fantastic fans and horsemen involved in the sport.

Ashley began her time with Horse Racing Nation covering racing in South Florida but also blogged about nationwide racing, industry issues and, from time to time, offered her opinion on how various changes could be beneficial to the industry. A move North to New Hampshire began both a new chapter in both Ashley's personal life and professional life. She currently pens the From Coast to Coast blog for HRN. Ashley also participates as a voter in the NTRA Top Thoroughbred Polls.

An alumni of Macon State College, Ashley is from Central Georgia but is currently living in New Hampshire with her husband, Chris, and their two sons Charlie and Michael. A stay-at-home mom, Ashley juggles parenting with blogging and her other passions. Aside from horse racing, Ashley is a fervent football fan, enjoys reading and studying history, and hopes to someday author a historical work covering the Tudor period as well as biographies of horse racing’s stars, equine and human alike.

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