Fountain Of Youth Draws 11 Seeking Derby Points
Impressive Maiden Winner Hidden Scroll Named Morning Line Favorite
By Margaret Ransom
Eleven 3-year-olds are expected to head postward in Saturday’s $400,000 Xpressbet.com Fountain of Youth (GII) Stakes, which headlines a 14-race program featuring nine graded stakes at Gulfstream Park. The 1 1/16-mile main track feature offers 50 points to the winner to make the Kentucky Derby (GI) gate in two months, with 20 points to second, 10 to third and five to fourth. It serves as the traditional prep race for the $1 million Florida Derby (GI), Florida’s final qualifier for the Run for the Roses, which will be held this year on March 30.
Since it was first contested in 1945, five Fountain of Youth winners have gone on to capture the Kentucky Derby – Tim Tam in 1958, Kauai King in 1966, Spectacular Bid in 1979, Thunder Gulch in 1995 and Orb in 2013. Five others finished second or third in the Fountain of Youth before winning on the first Saturday in May under the Twin Spires at Churchill Downs — Iron Liege in 1957, Pleasant Colony in 1981, Swale in 1984, Unbridled in 1990 and Go for Gin in 1994. Five Kentucky Derby winners ran in the Fountain of Youth but didn’t win – Iron Liege in 1957, Pleasant Colony in 1981, Swale in 1984, Unbridled in 1990 and Go for Gin in 1994.
Fourteen horses have completed the Fountain of Youth/Florida Derby double, the most recent being Orb in 2013.
The early 9-5 favorite for the 77th running of the Fountain of Youth is Hidden Scroll, who broke his maiden in eye-popping fashion by 14 lengths in 1:34.82 – geared down in the slop – on the Pegasus World Cup (GI) undercard January 26. He is a Juddmonte Farms homebred son of Hard Spun trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott and will again be ridden by jockey Joel Rosario, who will be in town from his winter base of California to accept the call.
“You have to have one win like he did the first time and come out of it in good order,” Mott said. “He’s got an awfully good mind. Usually, after a first race, horses will get a little hyped up and you have to wait for them to come back down. He eats well and has been good in his training. His works have been good.
“This isn’t a normal situation for us to jump right into a graded stake, but it’s that time of year and he’s doing well enough that we’re going to give him this one shot and see where it takes us.”
Champagne Stakes (GI) runner-up Code of Honor, who was scratched from the Breeders’ Cup juvenile the morning of the race due to illness, drew the rail for his first start since a fourth-place finish as the favorite in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes over this track on January 5. The William S. Farish homebred son of Noble Mission (a full brother to superstar Frankel), who is trained by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey, was fourth at 4-5 in the Mucho Macho Man, but did have some trouble at the break and has his connections hoping for a better finish here.
“It was a very impressive race,” McGaughey said. “I thought if we had got off good that day we probably would have put a little pressure on the winner. We wouldn’t have been so far back. I thought there’d be other (runners) going with (the winner/pacesetter) anyway, but they didn’t. (Code of Honor) got kind of hung out to dry. When he stumbled, the kid (jockey Eric Cancel) was patient with him and let him get his feet back under him, and he made a huge move.”
The Fountain of Youth is Code of Honor’s first attempt at two turns and will be ridden by John Velazquez.
“You would think (the distance) would help him,” McGaughey said. “We’ll have to wait and see, but I’m looking forward to running him two turns.”
Sagamore Farm and WinStar Farm’s Global Campaign made his racing debut as a sophomore on January 5 and impressed, capturing a seven-furlong maiden race by 5 ¾ lengths. The Stan Hough-trained son of Curlin followed it up with a first-level allowance victory by 2 ¼-lengths last month and lands here for his third start, a logical step into stakes company.
The $250,000 half-brother to multiple Grade 1 winner Bolt d’Oro (out of the A.P. Indy mare Globe Trot) is a bit late to the party, but everyone was reminded by Justify a year ago that a juvenile start is not a requirement to wearing Derby roses.
“He had some little 2-year-old stuff that set him back,” Hough said. “It took a while to get him back going again, but he’s a very talented horse. His first race was very nice and even his last race, even though the time wasn’t that fast, it was very impressive. Just the way he does things is very impressive.
“He’s doing really good. It’s going to be a lot tougher. It’s going to be a very tough race, he’s going to have to get challenged one of these days.”
Other names of note in the Fountain of Youth include Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (GII) winner and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) third-place finisher Signalman, who is making his seasonal debut for trainer Kenny McPeek; and the George Weaver-trained undefeated Nashua Stakes (GIII) winner Vekoma, also making his sophomore debut and his first start in nearly four months.
The field for the Fountain of Youth, from the rail out with jockeys and morning line odds, is:
1. Code of Honor, John Velazquez, 6-1
2. Epic Dreamer, Tyler Gaffalione, 20-1
3. Gladiator King, Jorge Solorzano, 50-1
4. Bourbon War, Irad Ortiz Jr., 10-1
5. Vekoma, Manny Franco, 7-2
6. Signalman, Brian Hernandez Jr., 9-2
7. Hidden Scroll, Joel Rosario, 9-5
8. Global Campaign, Luis Saez, 10-1
9. Everfast, Chris Landeros, 20-1
10. Frosted Grace, Jonathan Gonzalez, 30-1
11. Union’s Destiny, Leonel Reyes, 30-1
The Fountain of Youth is the day’s 13th race and has a post time of 5:32 p.m. ET.