(Shug McGaughey / Photo by Steve Higginbothom)
From the Gulfstream Park Media Team:
Courtlandt Farms’ Greatest Honour wove his way through traffic before unleashing an impressive kick in the stretch to capture Saturday’s $300,000 Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park.
The Shug McGaughey-trained 3-year-old son of Tapit, who captured the Jan. 30 Holy Bull (G3) at Gulfstream, virtually clinched a spot in this year’s Kentucky Derby (G1) field with his gutsy score in the Fountain of Youth, a 50-20-10-5 qualifying points race.
The Fountain of Youth, a 1 1/16-mile key prep for the $750,000 Curlin Florida Derby (G1) presented by Hill n’ Dale Farm at Xalapa March 27, headlined a 14-race program with nine stakes, eight graded.
Greatest Honor, the even-money favorite ridden by Jose Ortiz, raced far off a solid early pace set by Drain the Clock, who darted from the starting gate to show the way while setting fractions of 23.66 and 47.18 seconds for the first half-mile. Greatest Honor lagged far back while racing in traffic but made steady progress approaching the far turn. Drain the Clock continued to show the way under Edgard Zayas around the far turn and into the homestretch turn as Papetu, the early trailer, made a sweeping moving around Greatest Honour to enter contention under Junior Alvarado.
The long-striding Greatest Honour was steered to the outside while building momentum on the turn into the homestretch and kicked in powerfully through the stretch to sweep past Papetu and catch Drain the Clock approaching the finish line. Greatest Honour prevailed by 1 ½ lengths, galloping out strongly after completing the 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.02.
“He was a little farther back that I thought he would be going down the backside. A lot of dirt was hitting him. They weren’t going overly fast. Going three-quarters in 1:11 and change over this track is not fast,” McGaughey said. “When Jose got him in the clear it was over.”
Ortiz, who was aboard for the considerably easier 5 ¾-length Holy Bull victory, said Greatest Honor’s momentum was briefly stopped on the far turn.
“He’s such a big horse with such a big stride. At the three-eighths [pole] I’m trying to get him going and I got a space on the inside but I didn’t what to stop him again,” Ortiz said. “I decided to go wide and when he hit the clear, boom!”
McGaughey is hoping that Greatest Honour will follow the example of Orb, whom he saddled for victories in the 2017 Fountain of Youth, the 1 1/8-mile Florida Derby and the 1 ¼-mile Kentucky Derby.
“I’m glad we don’t have to run a mile and a sixteenth anymore,” McGaughey said. “When they’re going farther, I think we might see a little better horse.”
Drain the Clock, who captured the seven-furlong Swale (G3), finished two lengths ahead of Papetu.
“He ran huge. I thought he was the winner. I didn’t see the favorite coming,” trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. said. “He ran I can’t be disappointed. It was his first time around two turns and he got beat by a quality horse.”
Fire At Will, who captured the Nov. 6 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) at Keeneland, stalked the early pace before fading to eighth.
Tarantino, who finished second behind Greatest Honour in the Holy Bull, finished fourth, followed by Jirafales, King’s Ovation, Prime Factor, Fire At Will, Tiz Tact Toe and Sososubtle.
300k Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Quotes
Trainer Shug McGaughey (Greatest Honour, 1st): “I wasn’t real comfortable. I could see what was going on and I felt like if [jockey Jose Ortiz] got him in the clear then we could have a shot to make a run at him. The horse that was second [Drain the Clock], when he did break clear I said, ‘Uh, oh.’ But, he’s a really nice horse.”
“The pace wasn’t that fast today, I don’t think, but he was able to overcome it. He’s won twice down here now in stakes doing what he doesn’t want to do, and that’s a mile and a sixteenth. Like Jose said, I’m glad these mile and a sixteenth [races] are behind us. We’ll be looking forward to getting him stretched out. Hopefully it’s in the near future but, if not, I know what we’ve got. Hopefully as we keep going longer he’ll keep improving. The farther the better for him.”
“He does cover a lot of ground. I don’t know that he’s really that quick, as much as he just covers so much ground and he can get to horses so quick. And he did today. He got to that horse pretty quick.”
“It was the kickback. Jose said he wasn’t wanting to run through the dirt. He was wanting to get him to the outside and they were kind of holding him in there. Then he said they bumped over there on the turn and he kind of lost his rear end a little bit.”
Florida Derby? – “That would be my plan.”
Jockey Jose Ortiz (Greatest Honour, 1st): “He broke good, a bit slow like he always does, and I put him in the race. I tried to be as close as I could going to the backside and I got a good path behind Prime Factor. But, when we hit the turn I bumped the horse outside of me and lose my hind end a little bit and it was very hard to get him back going. He’s such a big horse with such a big stride. At the three-eighths pole I’m trying to get him going and I got a space on the inside but I didn’t want to have to stop him again, so I decided to go wide and when he hit the clear, boom. He was there for me. Huge run.”
“Not just this race. I won the first one [Holy Bull] and the second one, now we’re going to the Florida Derby and if we could sweep the three legs that would be great momentum going into the Derby. I know there’s a lot of time left and anything can happen. We just pray for the best and stay healthy. I know if the Florida Derby we’re going to face tough competition, for sure.”
Owner Donald Adam, Courtlandt Farm (Greatest Honour, 1st): “It’s very exciting. Being a horse that I bred and the history by which I came by him is very gratifying. I was a little concerned in this one. It looked like he wasn’t in the best position, but this will be the shortest race he runs in a long time. And the longer he goes, the better he will be.”
“I bought the mare [Tiffany’s Honour] in foal to a Tapit colt and that colt hit the ground and was killed in a paddock accident. So, I bred her back to Tapit and got him. I bought her at a Fasig-Tipton sale.”
Trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. (Drain the Clock, 2nd): “He ran huge. He ran like a winner. I didn’t even see the winner coming. I saw Papetu coming and he ran good. Obviously, the winner is a very good horse. We can’t be disappointed. It was his first time at the distance and he was beaten by a quality horse.”
Florida Derby? – “We’re undecided. We’ll talk it over with the owners and then we’ll see what they want to do and how he comes out and go from there.”
Jockey Edgard Zayas (Drain the Clock, 2nd): “He did everything right. It’s always a question if he could handle the two turns and I think he handled it pretty well. The winner has way more experience than him going two turns and for his first time going two turns, I think he ran a great race. I think he should try it again and he’ll probably get better. If not, he can go back to sprinting but I think he deserves another shot.”