Kentucky Derby

Fountain of Youth Stakes Preview: Irish War Cry Ready for Battle

Lauren King/Coglianese Photo

Undefeated through three career starts and most recently seen taking down 2016 juvenile champion Classic Empire in their sophomore debuts, Isabelle de Tomaso’s New Jersey homebred Irish War Cry will face his toughest test yet in Saturday’s $400,000 Xpressbet.com Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park.

The 71st running of the 1 1/16-mile Fountain of Youth, the second of Gulfstream’s three major Triple Crown preps for three-year-olds during the Championship Meet, anchors a blockbuster 13-race card featuring nine stakes, eight graded, worth $1.5 million in purses.

Also on the program are the $200,000 Fasig-Tipton Davona Dale (G2) for three-year-old fillies and $100,000 Fred W. Hooper (G3) for older horses on dirt, along with six turf stakes: the $200,000 Mac Diarmida (G2), $150,000 The Very One (G3), $150,000 Canadian Turf (G3), and $100,000 Sand Springs for older horses; and the $100,000 Palm Beach (G3) and $100,000 Herecomesthebride (G3) for three-year-olds.

Trained by Graham Motion, a late arrival in his last trip down the Triple Crown trail with 2011 Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Animal Kingdom, Irish War Cry returns to Gulfstream as a narrow 5-2 program favorite in the Fountain of Youth, four weeks after an impressive front-running 3 3/4-length triumph over multiple graded stakes winner Gunnevera in the Lambholm South Holy Bull (G2).

Fourth-place finisher Talk Logistics is also back from the Holy Bull to take another shot at Irish War Cry in the Fountain of Youth, which drew a competitive field of 11 that also features dual Grade 1 winner Practical Joke in his three-year-old debut, multiple graded stakes winner Made You Look trying dirt for the first time, four-time Florida-bred stakes winner Three Rules, Grade 3-placed Takaful, Peruvian Group 1 winner Huracan Americo, and promising but lightly-raced Beasley and Lookin for Eight in their stakes debuts.

Top Choice

#8 Irish War Cry – After a huge performance last time out in the Holy Bull Stakes, this horse jumped onto everyone’s Kentucky Derby list, and even moved up to number one on a few respected ones, like Steve Haskin’s Derby Dozen.  There is no doubt he looks like a prime-time player in this crop.  His recent workouts have been extremely eye-catching, as he looks to really be thriving and progressing at the right time, which is a big reason why I picked him on top in this spot.  However, I am worried about the presence of so much speed in this race, as last time out, he was alone on the lead.  If he can handle the company up front and stalk the pace, he should cruise to victory once again.  If not, if could set up really well for closers like Gunnevera or Practical Joke.

Horses to Use in Multi Race Wagers

#6 Practical Joke – It’s kind of a good news/bad news situation with Practical Joke.  His numbers and resume as a three-year-old are top notch, but the two year old form has not held up too well thus far since the crop turned three.  The workouts for this horse have been fairly strong so far, but with a workout partner like Shagaf, it’s pretty hard to tell what to make of them.  I’m hopeful he comes back in good order and runs a nice one, but not confident enough to put him on top.  Let’s see how he comes back before we get too carried away with him.

#2 Gunnevera – Ran an extremely solid race last time out to finish second in the Holy Bull Stakes, as he had to close into a slow pace.  He was able to easily pass the ailing Classic Empire, and was at least making up a small bit of ground on winner Irish War Cry.  This time out, there’s a lot more pace on paper than what there was in the Holy Bull, so that could be a big positive for him.  I have described him as the giant elephant in the room when it comes to the three-year-old crop.  He seems to be flying too far under the radar for a horse that has accomplished so much.  I’m expecting another solid performance from him in this spot.

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Exotic Plays

#5 Beasley – Has never had a bad effort in three lifetime starts, and was a pesky foe last time out against the highly-regarded Battalion Runner in an allowance race.  Battalion Runner is headed straight to the Florida Derby off of that win, but the connections of Beasley are being a little more aggressive and taking a shot here.  His speed numbers certainly give him a shot, but I think he might be a cut below the top few when it comes to actually winning the race.  Likely to have a say in things underneath, though.

Party Crashers

#11 Lookin for Eight –  After getting beat by Battalion Runner on debut, this horse responded in a huge way second time out, winning a maiden special weight by over 3 lengths on the Pegasus World Cup undercard.  That race seemed to have some nice horses in it, and several of the losing horses in that race will be running in the third race on this card, which could give you a good indication of how strong Lookin at Eight’s performance was last time out.  Awfully tough spot to try stakes company for the first time, but he might have the talent to pull it off.  One other important note: he is now trained by Mark Casse after what looks to be a private purchase.

Throw Outs

#7 Three Rules – A horse I’ve always found to be overrated, as he dominated in Florida when the better horses were other places, but hasn’t matched when stepping up in competition.  I think this will be a little over his head again here.

#9 Made You Look – Todd Pletcher will have him trying dirt for the first time here.  Never been a big fan of him either way, and I believe Pletcher is saving his big guns for other spots.  I would be surprised if he made much of an impact.

#4 Talk Logistics – He was the fourth place finisher of the Holy Bull last time out, which is the good news. The bad news is that he was beaten by fourteen lengths in that race!  Don’t see any chance of him turning the tables today.

#10 Takaful – Has been down right AWFUL in two stakes attempts after a tremendous debut maiden score.  Might just be a one-turn type of horse, yet they are trying him around two turns once again.  Will have to do some proving before I buy into him at longer distances.

#1 Huracan Americo – I’m extremely fascinated by this foreign shipper, and would love to give him more of a chance than I am giving him today.  It’s hard to think he can compete with this tough field, yet you never know, as we barely know anything about him.  We’ll see how it shakes out.

#3 Quinientos – Totally overmatched against what could be the best Kentucky Derby prep race yet.

Guaranteed All-Stakes Late Pick 4, Late Pick 5, Rainbow 6 at Gulfstream on March 4

According to Gulfstream Park, Saturday’s Fountain of Youth (G2) program at Gulfstream Park – featuring nine stakes totaling $1.5 million and some of the top three-year-olds in the country competing in the Xpressbet.com Fountain of Youth (G2) – will offer bettors guaranteed pools in the Late Pick 4, Late Pick 5, and 20-cent Rainbow 6.

The Late Pick 4 will have a guaranteed pool of $600,000, while the Late Pick 5 will have a guaranteed pool of $300,000 and the Rainbow 6 will have a guaranteed pool of $400,000.

Along with the $400,000 Fountain of Youth, other stakes Saturday are the $200,000 Fasig-Tipton Davona Dale for three-year-old fillies and the $100,000 Fred Hooper (G3) for four-year-olds and up at a mile, and six turf stakes that include the $200,000 Mac Diarmida (G2), $150,000 The Very One (G3), $150,000 Canadian Turf (G3), $100,000 Palm Beach (G3), and $100,000 Herecomesthebride (G3).

The Late Pick 4 will include (in order) the Fasig-Tipton Davona Dale, Canadian Turf, Mac Diarmida, and Xpressbet.com Fountain of Youth.  The Late Pick 5 will kick off with the Palm Beach, while the Rainbow 6 will begin with a 13-horse maiden allowance at seven furlongs.  Get all of our picks for Saturday’s big card HERE.  Want even more picks? Try our PREMIUM PICKS guaranteed to produce winners!

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