The 65th Fountain of Youth (FOY) features promising 3-year-olds horses from stakes winners to talented runners stepping up in class in the Grade 2 on Saturday.
Four of the past dozen winners in Gulfstream Park’s second oldest stakes race scored in the Florida Derby:
Quality Road, 2009; Scat Daddy, ’07; High Fly, ’05; and Vicar, ’99.
Likely favorite in the $400,000 route is To Honor and Serve, a regally bred son of ’06 Preakness winner Bernardini. The colt makes his sophomore debut after capturing three straight last fall.
To Honor and Serve closed out his 2-year-old campaign with an impressive victory in Aqueduct’s Remsen on Nov. 27 at 1 1/8 miles, the same distance as the FOY.
He has been working an hour north of the South Florida track at the Payson Park Training Center, where he recorded his fifth breeze of the year on Feb. 13 — covering five furlongs in 1:03.
The Bill Mott trainee is high on every list of contenders for the Kentucky Derby. He’s among several FOY runners that banked more than $200,000 in graded earnings, which determines who runs on the first Saturday in May if more than 20 are entered.
Gourmet Dinner leads several contenders with $700,000, thanks to the $600,000 he banked taking the Delta Downs Jackpot by 2 ¼ lengths Nov. 20.
The son of Trippi worked for the third time since January on Feb. 16 at Gulfstream, zipping a half-mile in 47 3/5, second fastest of 29 horses.
He’s coming off a third place finish in the Holy Bull on Jan. 30, beaten 1 ½ lengths and a neck behind undefeated Dialed In. The latter, however, is skipping the FOY as trainer Nick Zito opted for the recently created two-turn $100,000 Timely Writer on March 11, also at 1 1/8 miles.
Other likely starters that recently worked at Gulfstream are the one-two finishers in a contentious allowance contest at 1 1/8 miles on Feb. 5.
Shackleford, the 2 ¼-length winner that survived a claim of foul by the third-place finisher, breezed five furlongs in 1:01 3/5 last Saturday. The son of Forestry goes for his third straight in four starts.
Casper’s Touch, the runner-up that endured a troubled trip most of the way, went five furlongs in 1:00 4/5 Saturday.
The son of ’97 Belmont winner Touch Gold in his fourth outing was blocked inside in the backstretch, bumped and shut off entering the stretch, forced to take up sharply and alter course, but gained second by a nose.
Soldat, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf runner-up coming off a 10 ¾-length triumph in the slop last month at Gulfstream in allowance company, drilled four furlongs in 47 3/5 Saturday at Palm Meadows Training Center, second fastest of 48 works.
The son of War Front has never been worse than second in six starts, winning twice, but has never caught a fast track.
Two of the past FOY winners never made it to Churchill Downs. Eskendereya, shortly after capturing the Wood Memorial, was retired due to a leg injury when trainer Todd Pletcher noticed filling in his left front leg before his final work for the Kentucky Derby.
Quality Road was knocked off the Triple Crown trail when his right front foot was too sore for his final work less than a week before the 135th Derby because of a quarter crack.