Greatest Honour leads the field in the Grade 2, $350,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes on Saturday at Gulfstream. But his third straight win this weekend is not a certain outcome, as some of the horses he beat in the Holy Bull Stakes (G2) could move forward with more experience in tow, or a talented newcomer to the group might spoil the party.
Without making a final decision, here is a rundown of the main contenders.
At the end of last month, Greatest Honour took the local Holy Bull Stakes (G2) in impressive fashion after closing wide and drawing clear in the stretch by 5 3/4 lengths over Tarantino in second and Prime Factor in third. He won at the same 1 1/16-mile distance as this race, giving him successful experience on a configuration that arguably works against his closing style.
Greatest Honour's style is normally a disadvantage in 1 1/16-mile races at Gulfstream because of the closer finish line, in theory making it easier for speed horses to last and more difficult for closers to find time to close the gap. Yet, he won the race in a dominant fashion. Good closers overcome small obstacles such as a short stretch run.
Because Greatest Honour hails from the Shug McGaughey barn and sports a regal pedigree on both sides, the public is likely to bet him down.
Tarantino broke his maiden at first asking last September on Del Mar turf. He then ran second in the Zuma Beach Stakes at Santa Anita, losing only by a nose, before winning his third start in a Gulfstream optional claimer.
With only turf races in tow, the public left Tarantino at 26-1 in the Holy Bull. He turned in a strong performance by pressing a lively pace set by long shot Willy Boi and reclaiming second after losing it to Prime Factor.
On that effort alone, Tarantino fits as a contender again. On the negative side, the public is not likely to enjoy double-digit odds off that solid run.
According to Gulfstream Racing News and Barn Notes, Prime Factor is also scheduled to face Greatest Honour again after fading to third in mid-stretch last time. He lost the runner-up position to Tarantino by a disappointing 3 3/4 lengths despite moving into the spot on the turn as Greatest Honour circled the leaders.
Prior to that race, Prime Factor broke his maiden locally in a six-furlong sprint race on Dec. 12 by 8 3/4 lengths, giving hope of a star in the making.
Trainer Todd Pletcher figures to bring Prime Factor’s price down. Odds and value aside, it is too early to write off a talented runner such as him after one questionable effort stretching out. He is liable to improve in his third career start.
Drain the Clock brings an element of mystery to this race for trainer Saffie Joseph Jr., as he brings zero route experience to this race after five sprints.
In his last two starts, though, Drain the Clock took the local Limehouse Stakes and Swale Stakes (G3), giving him course experience and evidence of class. In the Swale effort, he drew away by 6 1/4 lengths.
Three starts ago in the Jean Lafitte Stakes at Delta Downs, Drain the Clock dumped jockey Heriberto Figueroa. In other races where the jockey stayed on, Drain the Clock is 4 for 4 with maiden and optional claiming wins to add to his two stakes races.
If Drain the Clock converts his form to a two-turn route, he is another contender. From a pedigree standpoint, there is notable turf-routing blood on his dam side.
Finally, Fire At Will brings excellent turf form as the the winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf and the Pilgrim Stakes (G2). He also took the off-the-turf With Anticipation Stakes at Saratoga last September, giving him a lone dirt win.
As a negative point to the dirt win, Fire At Will faced a watered-down field of three other horses after scratches and prevailed by only half a length.
Given Fire At Will’s dam is a Kitten’s Joy half-sister to turf router Decorated Invader, the pedigree tilts towards turf as well. Pedigree analysis is never an exact science, though, because many horses run contrary to their blood.
Completing the list of possible runners (as of this writing) are Papetu, Jirafales and Moonlite Strike.
Check back this blog in two days to see the final top pick for the Fountain of Youth Stakes.