Race 14, Saturday, March 3, 2018
Distance: 1 1/16-miles. Surface: Dirt. Purse: $400,000
2018 Fountain of Youth Stakes Picks
1. Good Magic
3. He Takes Charge
4. Storm Runner
5. Gotta Go
2018 Fountain of Youth Analysis
The 72nd running of the Fountain of Youth goes as the 14th race on a stakes-filled card at Gulfstream Park today and Good Magic will justifiably be favored to win based on his impressive Breeders’ Cup Juvenile-G1 victory last year.
Good Magic got a perfect trip stalking a duel when he won the Juvenile, but he might get the exact same trip today in the Fountain of Youth. If he can come up with anything close to his Juvenile performance for top trainer Chad Brown, they won’t beat this million-dollar yearling here under top jock Ortiz.
Brown is winning at a 28% clip off this kind of layoff and at the same clip over the past year with Ortiz, although at Gulfstream Park this combo are currently an uncharacteristic 1-for-14. Still, Good Magic has been working strongly and if you can get better than 7/5 he’s the play on top.
Marconi runs like a horse that still doesn’t know what’s going in an actual race. The $2 million yearling has obvious natural talent and he’s proven at a route, having run 1 1/8-miles in all three of his career starts.
Two starts back he broke slowly and made a good move before running away from Maiden Special Weight types. He broke slowly again in his last start, the Withers Stakes-G3 at Aqueduct, and rallied decently into a slow pace in his first stakes try to finish third. He’s reunited with top jock Castellano today and should have learned enough by now to get the right kind of trip in here.
Marconi is better than his morning-line odds of 8-1 and would be an overlay play if he’s anything close to that at post time. Trainer Pletcher and jockey Castellano are winning at a 26% clip together at Gulfstream.
Strike Power is a perfect 2-for-2 lifetime and both of his wins came sprinting at Gulfstream Park, the latest in the seven-furlong Swale Stakes-G3. He’s quick from the gate and he’ll take them as far as he can while likely being under pressure. Trainer Mark Hennig is winning at a 31% clip at Gulfstream, but he’s 0-for-31 with horses moving from a sprint to a route. Jockey Saez is certainly good enough, but he’d have to be alone on the lead setting a slow pace in here and that seems unlikely.
Storm Runner received a beautiful trip under jockey Saez to defeat two solid favorites in a N1X allowance at Gulfstream in his last going 1 1/16-miles, but Saez shows up on Strike Power today and Joel Rosario takes over here for trainer Dale Romans. Storm Runners numbers are improving as he makes his third start off the layoff, but the rider switch makes us think he’s a horse to use underneath in the exotic wagers at best.
Gotta Go might be a decent longshot play in your Fountain of Youth superfectas but he’s difficult to figure out. He looked good grinding out a win in the Street Sense Stakes at Churchill Downs last year but followed that race up with last place finish in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes-G2, also at Churchill Downs, after a trip that listed more trouble than he really had.
Maybe Gotta Go just didn’t like racing inside after drifting out in the first turn and causing a rival to clip heels. On the final turn he simply went backwards for no real reason. He now makes his second start off the layoff for capable trainer Ian Wilkes, after rallying from last to second in the Swale Stakes-G3 behind fellow Fountain of Youth entrant Strike Power. That was clearly a prep race and a late grinding rally with a slight move forward would put him in the superfecta if he feels like running today under regular rider Landeros.
He Takes Charge looked good winning a Maiden Special Weight on February 10 at Gulfstream Park in his last start going 1 1/16-miles. Trainer Mark Casse has been hot and the jockey/trainer combo of Gafflione/Casse have won at 25% clip together over the past year. He’s moving up in class but looks like he has some upside and does have an excellent work coming into the race.
Peppered makes his first start since finishing twelfth in the Kentucky Jockey Club-G2 at Churchill Downs on November 25. He was wide to start with in that race from post 14 but also had to deal with a loose horse early in the race and never got untracked. In his race before that, the Grey Stakes-G3 at Woodbine, he finished second as the heavy favourite after a wide trip but did have every chance to defeat the winner early in the drive. Trainer Reade Baker scores at 14% off this type of layoff but Peppered will need some serious improvement to beat the top group in here in his first start as a 3-year-old.
Machismo just broke his maiden going 6 1/2-furlongs in a Maiden Special Weight at Gulfstream Park and would seem to be ambitiously spotted here despite winning that race by 11 1/2-lengths, but his numbers are improving.
Promises Fulfilled is the second of two entrants in here for trainer Dale Romans along with Storm Runner. Romans did have three in here, but Free Drop Billy was scratched. Promises Fulfilled has been on the lead in all three of his starts and will obviously be the rabbit for Storm Runner, but he’ll have to deal with Strike Power for as far as that one goes. He also hasn’t run since finishing third last year in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes-G2 at Churchill Downs after setting the pace. Gulfstream Park often favors speed however, and that could be a plus for both speed horses, allowing at least one of them to hang on for a small share of the superfecta.
The Fountain of Youth sets up with Strike Power on the lead being pressured by Promises Fulfilled and possibly Machismo. Good Magic and Storm Runner should be just back of those two waiting to pounce, followed by closers Marconi, Gotta Go, He Takes Charge and Peppered.
Good Magic should take over into the stretch and he’ll than have to hold off late ralliers Marconi, He Takes Charge and Gotta Go. We’d like Storm Runner better if his rider had stuck with him, but he could still maybe hang on for a piece of the exactor, especially if the track is favoring speed. In that case, Strike Power might even be able to hold on for a share of the superfecta. He will be attempting to steal the race, theres no doubt about that.
We’ll Take Good Magic to win and place and over Marconi and Will Take Charge in the Fountain of Youth exacta, reverse the exacta for half the amount and also key those three horses in the first two spots in our trifectas and superfectas.
Strong’s Race Pick:‘Good Magic!*
*Tech issues caused a delay in posting this race preview.