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Breeders' Cup 2017

Kentucky Derby 2014: Handicapping the Fountain of Youth

General a Rod GPD 615 X 415
Photo: Coglianese Photos/Lauren King


With the 2014 Kentucky Derby prep season officially over, we now officially move into the Kentucky Derby Championship Series. The stakes get higher as the amount of points awarded in each race increase, and first up by post time on the increased scale of 50-20-10-5 is the G2 Fountain of Youth Stakes. Over the past decade, only 3 favorites have won the race, and one of those did so by way of the “winner” being disqualified for interference. Five other favorites finished second, third or fourth, and two favorites bombed the race completely.


During this time period, no trainer has completely dominated the race, but if you want a winner, bet on jockey John Velazquez’s mount. Velazquez has accounted for 4 winners in the last 10 years, tying Jerry Bailey for most winners in the Fountain of Youth. For the current distance of 1 1/16 mile, 1978 winner Sensitive Prince holds the stakes/track record of 1:41 flat. Devil’s Cave, winner of the G3 Sabin this past weekend, equaled that track record while making her graded stakes debut. Though the filly equaled Sensitive Prince’s time, her record stands as “the” record due to the change in track configuration between then and now.


Traditionally, the Fountain of Youth has served as a prep for the Grade 1 Florida Derby, which will be run in 5 weeks time on March 29. In the last ten years, four Fountain of Youth winners have gone on to win the 9 furlong Florida Derby. It should be noted that even though the Florida Derby has always been held at 1 1/8 mile, the Fountain of Youth has varied in distance from as short as a mile (2009) to as long as 1 1/8 mile (2005-2011, minus 2009). The 2014 renewal of the race drew a large field of 13 colts and geldings whose connections have Kentucky Derby aspirations. Who will make the grade and who will flounder? Florida Fillies, Laurie Ross and Ashley Tamulonis, break it down for you: 


Commissioner—(A. P. Indy - Flaming Heart, by Touch Gold) is exciting.  The pros:  this lightly raced colt has won twice at 1 1/8 miles and is by a Belmont Stakes winner out of a stakes winning dam who is by a Belmont Stakes winner. He’s also a half brother to Laugh Track, runner up in last year’s BC Sprint. The Pletcher trainee shouldn’t have an issue with distance.  The cons:  The late-running colt cuts back a half furlong and draws the rail.  Can Johnny V. keep him out of trouble?  Hey, it’s Pletcher and Johnny V. The Commissioner is a contender!
Commissioner—Though he doesn’t get a whole lot of stamina from his distaff line, Commissioner gets a good dose of stamina through both his sire line and his damsire. He already has two wins at 9 furlongs, so shorting up half a furlong should not be a problem. In his last start, he just edged highly regarded Top Billing here at Gulfstream. It looked as though he got the better trip of the two that day, though, since he was closer to the pace. The two ended up side by side when racing for the wire, and it appeared that Commissioner bumped, or at the very least crowded, Top Billing between himself and Hy Kodiak Warrior. I really liked that he continued to gallop out in front. This will be a class test, but if he runs to his pedigree, he shouldn’t have any problems here. Contender.
We Miss Artie—(Artie Schiller - Athena's Gift, by Fusaichi Pegasus) won his debut at five furlongs on the dirt and had an excuse in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.  That being said, I’m not convinced that he does his best running on the lawn. His sire gets only 28% dirt winners and We Miss Artie’s dam was unplaced in two dirt attempts.  We Miss Artie is a game competitor who could develop into a top grass horse.  What’s wrong with that?  Toss.
We Miss Artie—His recent works suggest that this second Pletcher trainee has been trained to be on his toes going into this tough spot. When Pletcher has multiple entries, all eyes are usually on one, but bettors had better be loath to ignore the higher priced Pletcher entrant. Personally, I don’t really like We Miss Artie here. He appears to be better on synthetics and turf, and his dirt form appears questionable, though his has a solid excuse for his maiden dirt run. Pass.
Medal Count—(Dynaformer - Brisquette, by Unbridled's Song) is another colt who won his maiden on dirt and was unplaced in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Yes, Dynaformer is the sire of Kentucky Derby hero Barbaro and Grade 1 winning veterans Perfect Drift and Starrer, but those top runners had more ability in their nose whiskers than Medal Count has shown so far.   Toss.
Medal Count—Though we have been doing a lot of medal counts recently, I don’t think we’ll add this particular medal to the count. He comes in off a turf win, and I doubt he wants the distance or the surface. Whether it be in Sochi or Stateside, I’ll pass on this son of Dynaformer.
Wildcat Red—(D'wildcat - Racene, by Miner's Mark) powered home a 4 ¾ length winner in the Hutcheson Stakes.  His only loss was a head defeat going a mile, which have some people, including myself, speculating that Wildcat Red is a sprinter.  This horse is a conundrum. Only one of his sire’s babies has won at 1 1/16 miles in the last year, yet Wildcat Red receives a good amount of stamina from his distaff line. Miner's Mark won the 1 ¼ mile Jockey Club Gold Cup and the colt’s dam won going 1 ¼ miles over the lawn. If Luis Saez can save a modicum of ground early on, Wildcat Red could be dangerous.  If he wants the lead badly enough, he can mess up someone else’s day.  He has a good shot in here, but I’m looking elsewhere. Maybe I’ll regret it, but that’s racing.  Use him in exotics to cover your tail.
Wildcat Red—It’s no secret that I REALLY like Wildcat Red, but let me let you in on a secret that pertains to this race: I’m not sure I like Wildcat Red in this spot. He was edged late going a mile in the Gulfstream Park Derby, but when he cut back in distance for the Hutcheson, he exploded to a 4 ¾ length win. Even though stretching back out has me skittish, it is very hard to ignore the confidence of trainer Jose Garoffalo. The Venezuelan native was very pleased with Wildcat Red’s GP Derby effort and used the Hutcheson just to keep his charge in shape. In an interview with Steve Haskin and Esther Marr, Garoffalo said that he had been training Wildcat Red for longer distances. If Saez could rate his speed, which Garoffalo is confident in, maybe he could stretch out to 8.5 furlongs, especially if he sits off the pace and relaxes like he did in the Hutcheson. Laurie and I are certainly in agreement here. Definitely an exotic play.
General a Rod—(Roman Ruler - Dynamite Eyes, by Dynaformer) fought Wildcat Red to prevail by a head in the Gulfstream Park Derby. The Michael Maker trainee has a consistent fast/slow/fast work pattern. His overall speed figures have improved in every race, he has the right running style and post to be a factor. Plus his works are decent.  Contender.
General a Rod—I have been anxiously awaiting the return of the Gulfstream Park Derby winner, and it’s finally here. The son of Roman Ruler showed grit when edging Wildcat Red last out, but he faces a much better field this go ‘round. He has the breeding to go a little longer, but he will be facing a class test. Trainer Michael Maker has been putting up some good stats lately, and him and jockey Javier Castellano are a dynamite team. Exotics play, contender.
Casiguapo—(Sightseeing - Emerald Buddha, by Buddha) has been kept on a steady diet of sprint races with poor results. In his only race at 1 1/16 miles, he finished second in the Delta Jackpot.  The colt was best of the rest in both the Hopeful and Delta Jackpot, so he’s showed a modicum of class. His sire and damsire both won at 1 1/8 miles, plus his second dam’s sire is the legendary Alysheba. Casiguapo will handle the distance, but his race pattern is inconsistent.  Trainer Mario Morales takes the blinkers off in the Fountain of Youth. No word on if he’ll also have a rocket strapped to the horse’s posterior. Longshot potential.
Casiguapo—“Meh” pretty much sums up how I feel about Casiguapo. I understand that he was relatively well liked early in his career and is Grade 1 placed, but he just isn’t my cup of tea. About the only stat trainer Mario Morales has going for him is the 50% blinkers off stat. Pass.
C. Zee—(Elusive Bluff - Diamondaire, by Distorted Humor) has hit the board in all four of his starts, He chased Wildcat Red around the oval in the Hutcheson Stakes and finished a distant 4 ¾ lengths behind his rival.  C. Zee’s dam and two of her half siblings are stakes placed and this is the female family of two-time Champion Sprinter Housebuster.  C. Zee may handle the 1 1/6 mile distance, but it may be as far as the colt wants to go. Plus, he breaks on the outside and probably won’t be able to save much ground. He’s good, but might not be good enough. Toss.
C. Zee—This will be C. Zee’s first try beyond 7 furlongs, and I don’t think he’s going to like the added distance. As I stated prior to his Hutcheson start, his pedigree is riddled with sprinters, and I believe that is what C. Zee will ultimately be best at. He gets a “C” for distance ability.
Almost Famous—(Unbridled's Song - Wild Gams, by Forest Wildcat) ran out of gas in the stretch of the Holy Bull and faded like a bad tan to finish seven lengths behind Cairo Prince.  This is a horse that wants to be left alone on the lead and if anybody eyeballs Almost Famous, it’s game over – for him.  He should be sharper for the FOY, but I don’t see him alone on the front end for long.  Toss.
Almost Famous—So he didn’t pass his class test in the Holy Bull…the good news is that he does not have to face the top 3 from that race. The bad news is that he faces an entirely different cast of classy entrants. It may be that the faster surface of Gulfstream doesn’t rock his boat and that he prefers a deeper track like Churchill, which he has already won over. I’m willing to give him a second look at some point, but not here. Pass.
Best Plan Yet—(Hear No Evil - Bayou Plans, by Bayou Hebert) was beaten by over 27 lengths in his first two starts of the season, both times at Gulfstream.  Great connections (Jackson Bend and Champion Awesome Feather) and pedigree (half to G-1 & G-3 winners), but he isn’t living up to his end of the deal.  Send him back to Calder.  Toss.
Best Plan Yet—Dare I say it? Calder monster. There, I said it. He threw in a clunker in the Gulfstream Park Derby and did very little to redeem himself in the Holy Bull. Granted, he did run 5th that day, but like Almost Famous, he faces a whole new cast of contenders. I can’t pass over him fast enough.
Our Caravan—(Daaher - Alwaan, by Elusive Quality) jumped from a good looking maiden debut into the fire in the Holy Bull.  The PP’s comment “Faltered” was too kind. He would have had to have started some type of run in order to falter.  For whatever reason, he just wasn’t up to running that day or maybe the competition was too hard.  Our Caravan posted two decent post-race works, but draws an outside post. Toss.
Our Caravan—After his maiden score at this distance, I thought that maybe he stood a chance in the Holy Bull. However, I stated before that race that he was likely to be outclassed by his more experience rivals that way, and he unfortunately proved me right. One bad race does not make or break a racehorse, but I will pass until he can prove to me that he can hang with a classy bunch.
Hesinfront—(War Front - Classy Marlin, by Sky Classic) didn’t show much in his first try over the dirt in an optional claimer at Gulfstream last time out. That would be reason enough for most trainers to stick the colt back on the turf.  A pedigree doesn’t get much “turfier” than this. His sire gets some dirt runners (his son Soldat won the FOY in 2011), but most of War Front’s offspring are best over the lawn.  Hesinfront’s damsire Sky Classic, a son of English Triple Crown winner Nijinsky, was a Champion Turf horse. Second damsire Marlin was no slouch on turf either. Oh, and Hesinfront’s dam is a half sister to multiple G-1 winning turf filly Tapitsfly (winner of BC Juvie Turf. First Lady, etc.).  Toss.
Hesinfront—Out of 5 career starts, he has just a maiden victory to his name. He has run primarily on the turf, but in his lone dirt start, he was up against it from the start in having to face Top Billing and Surfing U S A. All in all, he has not shown to me that he can emulate his own name in a race. He will definitely not be in front at the wire.
Top Billing—(Curlin - Parade Queen, by A.P. Indy) was beaten a neck by Commissioner in his first start at Gulfstream. Then the son of Curlin was ultra-impressive in an optional claimer, circling the field to win by 2 ¾ lengths over another nice colt, Surfing U S A.  Top Billing is Honor Code’s stablemate and many people think that Top Billing could be the better horse.  Top Billing is a half to stakes winners Untouched Talent and King Gulch. Some may recall that Untouched Talent is the dam of Kentucky Derby and Preakness runner-up Bodemeister. Top Billing is aptly named as his pedigree is filled with stakes winners. Major Contender.
Top Billing—Hallelujah! Praise the racing gods! We finally get to see the hyped Top Billing in a stakes race. Now don’t think I’m questioning the genius that is Shug McGaughey, but I am voicing what we have all been saying. Bred to go all day long, Top Billing should have no problem with the distance, a fact he has already proven. Commissioner got the best of him two starts back, but as I have already stated, I think Commissioner got the better trip that day. I credit Top Billing for not spitting the bit or being intimidated into backing down while racing in close quarters that day. His come from behind style makes me nervous, but both he and Will Take Charge have proven that talent and ability can overcome the generally speed-favoring bias. Does he deserve top billing? We shall see. Contender.
East Hall—(Graeme Hall - East Long Lake, by Sultry Song) is the most experienced horse in the race with ten starts under his girth. He finished only 2 ½ lengths behind General A Rod and Wildcat Red in the Gulfstream Park Derby over a speed favoring track. Just 20 days later, East Hall  went three wide on the turn and closed within two noses of the win in the 1 1/16 mile OBS Championship Stakes for statebreds. This is a tractable colt, who has shown that he can put forth a good effort from just about anywhere in the pack.  East Hall’s dam is a half to three stakes winners and two stakes placed runners. He’ll handle the distance, he’s tangled with a couple in here before.  The drawback is that far outside post which guarantees that East Hall will go wide on the first turn and likely have a wide trip the whole way.  Consider for exotics.
East Hall—Having only two wins in 10 career starts does not recommend East Hall, especially not in this field. Another strike against this gelded son of Graeme Hall is his tendency to find trouble in races. He managed a third in the Gulfstream Park Derby, but I’m going to go with that being a bit of a fluke. He does seem to like the Gulfstream track, but I highly doubt his affinity for the track will help him overcome the hike in class. Thanks, but no thanks.



Track bias:  73% of the pace setters/pressers have won going 1 1/16 miles at Gulfstream. 21% have wired the field. Horses in posts 8 and up are screwed, only three have won in the 53 races held at the distance.


Laurie: I think the two best horses in the field, Top Billing and Commissioner, will have issues with their respective post positions.  Maybe they’ll be head and withers above the rest of the field.  Either way, I’ll look for the upset with General A Rod. 

General A Rod, Commissioner, Top Billing, East Hall


Ashley: The pace scenario is going to be interesting. The majority of the field likes to run up close to the pace, but Almost Famous is going to be the colt that wants the lead the most. Calvin Bo-Rail will have to gun him from the gate to clear the 7 runners to his inside, and I highly doubt he will get an easy lead or be left alone on the front end. As Laurie said, Top Billing and Commissioner are the two best colts in the field, but they both drew poor posts, though with their come from behind styles, it may not be all that bad. Though I have my reservations about this particular race, I'll have to stick with Wildcat Red. 

Wildcat Red,  Top Billing, Commissioner, General a Rod


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Older Comments about Kentucky Derby 2014: Handicapping the Fountain of Youth...

Almost Famous has been overhyped since prior to his debut; and I've never been on the bandwagon.
Almost Famous has never rated in four prior races.
Seeing as the horse has rated before, I doubt it, and Calvin is not one to rate a horse right out of the gate
Possibly he tried to rate him and the horse shut down.
Do not know what happened.All i know is that he did not break with the field.Basically pulling up is not a good sign. Hopefully Calvin just played it safe.
Was wondering where Almost Famous was, do not think he got a fair shot. Hope he will show what he is made of later in the year.
Agreed,i definately sympsthize.If i ever considered moving out of the Evil Empire State.A definate consideration wiould be legalized gambling.Oh,who the hell am i kidding Blabs.That would be my #1 consideration. I think my boy Famous got squeezed at the start.Regardless i did not like how he basically pulled up. Just hoping all is well and he will be back to play again. Looks like i am down to 3 at the table.California Chrome,Indianapolis and hopefully a healthy Noble Moon. The rest,i can't make heads or tails. In looking at the field for this years Derby. All were very excited with the Bloodlines of this group compared to last years group. As much as i enjoy the Breeding angle . I am still a speed player to heart. That being the case,last years group at this point ,ran so much faster than this Group.It is almost like Men against Boys.That is how much faster last years colts were.
Thanks Tom! Days like today make me even angrier about the parimutuel wagering ban in Georgia. Not the best payday in the world, but I would gladly have taken it.
congrats Ashley , nice call.Unfortunately was rooting for Laurie in that Pictoral
Just hope you stay away from this one.Not that he can't win. Like i said 5 or 6 horses can win. But 6/5 on this guy is not even comparable to collecting the Ante in the card game.
good point tom lol i wasnt the only one that bet him
Probably the same Einsteins that overbet Rydilluc have opened this horse at 1/2. Stupid money chasing ridiculous money.
Lays over,can he win the race .Yes he can,like about 6 other horses. But lays over.Almost want to keep repeating that like Iversons>>Practice-Practice
Grinders are nice when there's a pace meltdown, for second money though. TP lays over this field even without being pushed. Of the 4/5/8 It would surprise me to see one hit the board.
Florida,don't waste your time with Vic. He only reads and absorbs the posts he wants to. I think you are correct though. I have seen this horses 3 races.Gives the impression he is a grinder. Looks like he is the type that will need help to win a race
Seeing as they aren't working from the gate, don't subscribe to that. I think he's just too slow.
Vic, I said I didn't see the works, so I didn't know what they looked like while posting those times. I just noted the times were nearly identical. Tom, love the info. I'd like to hear how Commish looked in a longer work, say 7 f to a mile. I have a theory that he doesn't go as well in shorter works because he takes a while to get going.
2,4,5,and 12.
funny my comments have absoultely NOTHING to do with anything YOU wrote..My what an ego

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