Soldat looks solid in 2011 Fountain of Youth, To Honor and Serve makes 3-year-old debut
by Ken Strong, Horse Handicapper, Predictem.com
2011 Road to the Kentucky Derby
Fountain of Youth Stakes, Gulfstream Park, Race 10, Saturday, February 26, 2011
Grade II, 1 1/8 Miles, Dirt, Purse $400,000
Fountain of Youth Picks
2.To Honor and Serve
Soldat looks solid in the 65thrunning of the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park on Saturday, if only because he has a fitness edge on likely favorite To Honor and Serve.
Coming off a 10-week layoff in his last on January 21, Soldat wired a decent field of N1X allowance runners in the slop at Gulfstream Park at the Fountain of Youth distance of 1 1/8-miles. But it wasnt the fact that he won by 10 -lengths, it was the way he did it. Pressured throughout while racing inside and under a hold to the stretch, he ran away from the field when asked.
Soldat is already proven at the distance and he doesnt need the lead to win if his victory in the grassy With Anticipation Stakes last summer at Saratoga is any indication. He also has some serious class, having run second in the Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf last year. By War Front (Danzig) out of a Coronados Quest mare, Soldat also has the pedigree to handle the 1 -miles of the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in May.
While we would like to see Soldat prove that he can come from off the pace on the dirt to win the Fountain of Youth, theres a good chance hell run a replica of his last, rating on the frontend under jockey Alan Garcia and forcing the remainder of the field to come and get him when it counts. Were thinking 8/5 would be a fair price and theres a good chance well get that with double Grade II winner To Honor and Serve in the field.The fact that trainer Kiaran McLaughin is scoring at a 31 percent clip at Gulfstream Park with eight wins from 26 starts, makes Soldat even more enticing.
Likely favorite To Honor and Serve is the horse everyone will be watching as he makes his 3-year-old debut, and he does have some questions to answer. The only horse in the field besides Soldat to have cracked 100 on the Beyer Speed Figure scale, To Honor and Serve makes his first start in almost three months after winning back-to-back Grade II races at Aqueduct last fall. Hes proven at the distance, having won the Remsen at the Fountain of Youth distance in his last start at Aqueduct on November 27, 2010, and his lines do show that he can come from slightly off the pace, but these (at least some of them) are better than he faced in those races and they also have a fitness edge on him. Hes also never run at Gulfstream Park.
To Honor and Serve is another who has enough stamina in his pedigree to win the Kentucky Derby, being by Bernardini (A.P. Indy) out of a Deputy Minister mare, and his trainer, Bill Mott, is one of the best in the business.While its definitely easier to get a natural route horse fit enough to go a distance off a layoff (and To Honor and Serve has been working very well), were thinking theres no reason Mott will want to have this horse fully cranked for this race and that the Kentucky Derby is the goal.
Could To Honor and Serve win this? Sure, but wouldnt it be better to give him a good stamina building run from just off the pace, rather than cooking him in a duel with Soldat in his first start back? Surely Mott is too smart for that. Jockey Johnny Velazquez, currently second in the Gulfstream Park standings, wont hurt this ones chances, but were also thinking he wont be overly aggressive if he hasnt got the horse he needs underneath him. At a short price, wed rather take Soldat.
Gourmet Dinner might be just a cut below the top two, but he certainly gave his best to finish third beaten 1 -lengths by one of this years Kentucky Derby favorites Dialed In the one-mile Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park on January 30. Hell also have a new rider today as top New York jock Ramon Dominguez ships in from New York to take him for a spin. If a silly duel develops between Soldat and To Honor and Serve, or a few others in here, Gourmet Dinner should be the horse most capable of taking advantage of it in the stretch.
The last horse well throw into our trifectas is Bowmans Causeway on the rider switch angle. Julien Leparoux rode fellow Fountain of Youth entrant Caspers Touch to a troubled second-place finish behind Shackleford (also in this race) going 1 1/8-miles at Gulfstream Park on February 5 in an N1X allowance race and could have ridden that horse back in this race, but chose Bowmans Causeway instead. Much has been made of the trouble Caspers Touch had in that last race, but Leparouxs switch to Bowmans Causeway makes us think he knows something, and that the trouble may not have been as bad as it looked. Bowmans Causeway is making a major class jump after winning a 1 1/8-mile Maiden Special Weight race at Gulfstream Park on February 11 with a solid rally. A heated pace battle would really help his chances, but for now a good in the money performance is probably what trainer Patrick Biancone is hoping for.
El Grayling finished third beaten 2 -lengths by Shackleford and a nose by Caspers Touch in his last, and while he does have a sharp trainer in Michael Maker, he may already have shown his best. Both El Grayling and Shackelford could conceivably add to an early pace scenario in the Fountain of Youth, setting the race up for a rallier after succumbing to Soldat. The remaining entrant in the field, Racing Aptitude, comes into the Fountain of Youth off two average turf efforts, and while he did have some trouble in his last, he would probably need a complete meltdown of not only the pacesetters, but the remaining ralliers, in order to win this at huge odds.