(Signalman before the Breeders’ Cup in November / Photo by Holly M. Smith)
(Signalman before the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity / Photo by Holly M. Smith)
By Ryan Dickey / Pressbox Writer:
The Road to the Kentucky Derby is in full swing as February turns to March. The G2 Fountain of Youth — the final local prep for the Florida Derby — drew 11 runners as Race 13 on a wonderful card of 14 races at Gulfstream Park on Saturday. Of the 11 entries, four of them have a better chance to win than the rest, in my opinion. Going a 11/16-miles for a share of a $400,000 purse, the full field of entries include:
- Code of Honor (Shug McGaughey/John Velazquez) 6-1
- Epic Dreamer (Kelly Breen/Tyler Gaffalione) 20-1
- Gladiator King (Jamie Mejia/Jorge Solorzano) 50-1
- Bourbon War (Mark Hennig/Irad Ortiz Jr.) 10-1
- Vekoma (George Weaver/Manuel Franco) 7/2
- Signalman (Ken McPeek/Brian Hernandez Jr.) 9/2
- Hidden Scroll (Bill Mott/Joel Rosario) 9/5
- Global Campaign (Stanley Hough/Luis Saez) 10-1
- Everfast (Dale Romans/Chris Landeros) 20-1
- Frosted Grace (Kathy Ritvo/Jonathan J. Gonzales) 30-1
- Union’s Destiny (Juan Avila/Luis Reyes) 30-1
The first thing to do when looking at a race is to separate the “wheat from the chaff” and find horses that probably don’t offer much of a chance to win. It’s important to note, however, that even though these horse may not have the best chance to win, they take up space on the racetrack and their actions (or inactions) can have an impact on the way the race is run.
An obvious “toss” is #3 Gladiator King, who will be outmatched completely in this race. He was 202-1 in the Holy Bull at Gulfstream and lost by nearly thirty lengths. To make matters worse, he was entered in (and lost) a turf sprint last weekend. No shot.
Outside post positions don’t fair well in 11/16-mile races at Gulfstream, so #10 Frosted Grace and #11 Union’s Destiny were already behind the proverbial 8-ball. That they don’t look like contenders on paper, and, to top it off, they have a bad draw. That seals their fate. They are in the “toss” category.
It’s pretty easy to discredit the chances of a 50-1 and two 30-1 horses, but it’s another to take a stand against one with shorter odds. I’m betting against #6 Signalman. This Ken McPeek colt has hit the board in every race he’s run, but I think that streak stops here. He showed a lot of development from his first start at 2 last May at Churchill to his victory in the Kentucky Jockey Club on the same Louisville strip. But it’s going to take a significant step forward from that performance to be able to match some of the other horses I think will be win contenders here.
All eyes are going to be on morning line favorite, #7 Hidden Scroll. He won in scintillating fashion in his debut at Gulfstream in a maiden special weight affair as part of the undercard for the Pegasus World Cup. Winning impressively by fourteen lengths officially (it would have been more had jockey Joel Rosario not wrapped him up early) going a mile on a sloppy track, Mott wastes no time throwing the Hard Spun colt into the fray against two graded stakes winners in this field (Signalman and #5 Vekoma). Hidden Scroll garnered a 102 Beyer Speed Figure and a -2 ThoroGraph number for his efforts on January 26th. Those figures are the best by in this field, but they came against maidens on a sloppy track.
There are a lot of question marks for Hidden Scroll, and while it’s highly possible that he is a freak of a talent, the odds will not be in favor of supporting him in the win pool. Definitely useable in multi-race bets, it’s important to note that Mott doesn’t normally throw horses into races where he feels they will be completely out run. Will he bounce or not? Can he bounce and still win? At less than 3-1, I don’t want to find out with my money.
Vekoma hasn’t raced since November 4th of last year at Aqueduct. However, in that race, he won the Grade 3 Nashua Stakes at a mile distance, and received a 101 Beyer figure (one less than Hidden Scroll in his debut). Obviously any forward move puts this undefeated Candy Ride colt at the top of the list of contenders. And if his 7/2 morning line odds hold until post time, he’s definitely worth taking a shot if you don’t mind betting on horses coming off a three month layoff.
Vekoma’s sire had plenty of stamina, but this colt’s dam (a multiple graded stakes winner in her own right) had her best victory at seven panels and was sired by Champion sprinter Speightstown. There’s no way to know what Vekoma’s optimal distance is yet, but Candy Ride has yet to sire a Classic winner (although he may this year in Game Winner), and I get the feeling a mile is this colt’s “sweet spot.” Another half furlong won’t hit him square in the eyes, but if there’s a duel late in the stretch, this one may be feeling the effects more than most.
#8 Global Campaign is an intriguing runner here. He’s also 2-for-2 lifetime, after winning a $50,000 maiden special weight race on debut and an optional claiming n1x race last out. Obviously taking a leap up in class, the 10-1 odds already represent that jump. He’ll be forwardly placed, but most likely behind Hidden Scroll early (Hidden Scroll will probably be asked to win this race in wire-to-wire fashion). Trainer Stanley Hough has saddled 10 runners at Gulfstream this meet, winning four races and hitting the board eight of those 10 times. Saez is an underappreciated jockey and as long as this Curlin colt out of an A.P. Indy mare has the stamina that his pedigree indicates, a clean trip should put him in contention at a price. Do not overlook.
For me, the horse that gets the nod over the others in this race is #4 Bourbon War. The odds at post time will NOT be in the double digits, as I feel this could be the proverbial “wise guy” horse in the Fountain of Youth. But if I can get 5-1 on this Tapit out of a precocious My Conquestadory (by Artie Schiller) I’m all over it. If you watch his last race, another optional claiming n1x at Gulfstream on January 18th, you’ll see him do something young 3YOs sometimes (and young Tapits very often) have a hard time doing — splitting horses in the stretch.
Watch this race here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tzfthCmK-qE
The reason that move (start the Youtube video at 1:17 in) is important is that sometimes Tapit progeny take a while to get their heads straight. But Bourbon War’s dam, My Conquestadory was a multiple graded stakes winner after two starts as a 2YO (skipped the maiden ranks altogether and won G2 TVG Summer Stakes at Woodbine and G1 Darley Alcibiades at Keeneland) so maybe this colt has his sire’s ability and his mother’s precocity. If that’s the case, another forward move off his last effort should be expected. I think it’ll happen.
It should be noted that I was both an Artie Schiller fan as well as a fan of Conquest Stables during their very short tenure in the sport — so maybe I’m thinking with my heart instead of my brain — but as it stands, I’m backing Bourbon War and trainer Mark Hennig in the Fountain of Youth.
It needs to be noted that although Hennig has only won one race in 25 (25-1-5-5 4%) tries at Gulfstream this meet, the sole winner was this colt!
As far as wagering strategies, there is a late pick-4 starting in race 11 at Gulfstream on Saturday. The 12 race is the Grade 2 Davona Dale Stakes, featuring last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Jaywalk — who is the easiest of singles on the card for the day. Picking a few contenders in race 11, singling #1 Jaywalk in the 12th, playing #4 Bourbon War, #5 Vekoma, #7 Hidden Scroll and #8 Global Campaign with a few contenders in the finale is a good start for a pick-4 ticket.
Best of luck!