The Kentucky Derby trail points to South Florida and the Fountain of Youth on Saturday afternoon.
Hidden Scroll (9-5), was donned the morning line favorite for the Grade 2 $400,000 Xpressbet.com Fountain of Youth Stakes. A key prep race for the Florida Derby, the Fountain of Youth is a 1 1/16 mile trek around the Gulfstream Park oval.
The 16-race "Kentucky Derby Championship Series" began two weeks ago with the Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds won by War of Will, currently ranked No. 2 in the NTRA Top 10 Thoroughbred Poll. Hidden Scroll was ranked No. 6 and Signalman (9-2) is ranked one spot behind him at No. 7.
Points to the top four finishers of the Fountain of Youth will be distributed on a 50-20-10-5 basis.
The last Fountain of Youth winner to don the roses in Louisville was Orb who also captured the Florida Derby before winning the Derby. The race, scheduled for approximately 5:32 p.m. EST, is Race 13 on Saturday’s Gulfstream Park 14-race card and will be shown live on Fox Sports 2.
Here’s a look at the entries for the Fountain of Youth (post position, horse, trainer, jockey, ML odds in parenthesis):
Race 13 – Gulfstream Park, Post Time: 5:32 p.m. EST
1 – Code of Honor (McGaughey, Velazquez, 6-1). The Champagne runner-up will try and avenge his poor performance in the Mucho Macho Man as the post time favorite and goes around two turns for the first time. Shug looks to have this one fit for the race and retains Johnny V in the irons. Leaning elsewhere.
2 – Epic Dreamer (Breen, Gaffalione, 20-1). Long shot son of former race winner Orb was the front runner in the local prep before fading in deep stretch to eventual winner Harvey Wallbanger. Irad jumps off to ride Bourbon War and that speaks volumes. Pass.
3 – Gladiator King (Mejia, Solorzano, 50-1). You don’t see 50-1 too often in the morning line odds, but seems to fit the bill here. It will be the son of Curlin’s 11th career start, which is significant in this day and age. Wheels back after six days rest and a turf start. Lots going on here.
4 – Bourbon War (Hennig, Ortiz, Jr., 10-1). Plenty of opportunity for this son of Tapit to move forward off his allowance win over the surface. Irad jumps aboard for Mark Hennig, whose only win at the meet is with this one. Interesting.
5 –Vekoma (Weaver, Franco, 7-2). Solid connections who have had past success together. Lightly raced colt steps up in class and will run with Lasix for the first time ever. Has beat some quality competition in his two career races and could be sitting on a big one and drew well for the race. Contender.
6 – Signalman (McPeek, Hernandez, 9-2). Third-place finisher in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, came back to win a Grade 2 at Churchill Downs before shutting down his 2018 campaign. His first start of the year will be a key one with major Derby points on the line. McPeek is sneaky good in big races and his horse has never missed the board in five career races. Leave him off your tickets at your own peril.
7 – Hidden Scroll (Mott, Rosario, 9-5). Saw this one live run off the page on the Pegasus undercard for Bill Mott. Big speed figure aside, the race was on the slop, he’ll be a small price and that effort could be difficult to duplicate in his second career race. It’s early enough to try and beat the son of Hard Spun at a short price. In the mix.
8 – Global Campaign (Hough, Saez, 10-1). Undefeated in two career races, this son of Curlin steps up in class. His speed figures seem to be a notch below the top contenders in this race. His trainer has had a pretty solid meet to date winning 4-of-10 races over the Gulfstream strip. Sitting this one out and will let him try and beat me.
9 – Everlast (Romans, Landeros, 20-1). Runner-up in the Holy Bull looks to improve as the races get longer. The Take Charge Indy colt has a roller coaster past performance record, but Landeros has won some big races this winter already and gets the mount for Dale Romans. Could get overlooked on the board and could be a decent overlay underneath in the exotics.
10 – Frosted Grace (Ritvo, Gonzales, 30-1). His daddy won a Derby prep at a huge price and he’ll try to do the same in South Florida. Stretches out and tries two turns for the first time after an unsuccessful sprint attempt in the Swale. Comes in third off the layoff and the outside post could be detrimental unless he gets to the lead early. Not impossible at a big price.
11 – Union’s Destiny (Avila, Reyes, 30-1). Son of Union Rags has improved every race and should like the extra distance, but draws a tough post with the short run to the clubhouse turn. Sports a bullet work on his morning tab, but enters deep waters and the post draw is enough to divert my attention. Passing.
Post Time Outlook: 1 – Vekoma; 2 – Signalman; 3 – Hidden Scroll; 4 – Frosted Grace
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.