The Kentucky Derby trail continues with 50 points going to the winner of Saturday's $400,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2). This race will pit experience against potential Saturday at Gulfstream Park, where graded-stakes winner Signalman will make his 2019 debut in a talent-rich field of 11 3-year-olds that will include several less accomplished but nevertheless brilliant contenders.
The Fountain of Youth, the key prep for the $1 million Florida Derby (G1) March 30, will headline a 14-race program with nine graded stakes, including the $200,000 Davona Dale Stakes (G2) for 3-year-old fillies, featuring the 2019 debut of Jaywalk, the 2018 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) winner who won the Eclipse Award as 2-year-old filly champion of 2018.
Signalman's body of work during his juvenile season is beyond compare among his Fountain of Youth rivals. Owned by Tommie M. Lewis, David A. Bernsen, LLC and Magdalena Racing, the 3-year-old son of General Quarters concluded his 2018 campaign with a victory in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill Downs at the Fountain of Youth distance of 1 1/16 miles, three weeks after closing from 12th to finish third in the $2 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) at the home of the Kentucky Derby (G1).
Multi-race guaranteed pools will be offered for the Late Pick 4 (Races 11-14), Late Pick 5 (Races 10-14) and 20-cent Rainbow 6 (Races 9-14). The Late Pick 4 will be guaranteed for $750,000, as will the Rainbow 6 pool if the popular jackpot wager is not solved by Saturday. The Late Pick 5 pool will be guaranteed at $500,000. The Fountain of Youth has been carded as Race 13 (Post time- 5:32 p.m.).
||Code of Honor
|Claude McGaughey III
||Irad Ortiz, Jr.
||Brian Hernandez, Jr.
"I think my colt, Signalman, is certainly the most experienced at the highest level. He's already beaten some of them that are running back in there and there are other ones that are unknown quantities," trainer Kenny McPeek said. "But you got to get them ready and bring them over there and get the job done. I'm pretty confident going over there, but we'll find out Saturday."
Signalman finished a late-closing second in his May 17 five-furlong debut at Churchill behind Sir Truebadour, who went on to win the Bashford Manor (G3) two races later. Signalman returned to capture a seven-furlong maiden special weight race at Saratoga Sept. 1 before finishing second in the Breeders' Futurity (G1) at Keeneland, taking third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and winning the Kentucky Jockey Club.
"In his first race he was second going five furlongs at Churchill. For a big horse, that is a lot to overcome. He's been a nice horse from the beginning. When he broke his maiden at Saratoga, we knew we were on to something," McPeek said. "Since then, since we've stretched him out, he's done everything right."
Brian Hernandez Jr. has the return mount aboard Signalman.
The least experienced and perhaps most exciting Fountain of Youth entrant is Juddmonte Farms, Inc.'s Hidden Scroll, a dazzling debut winner at Gulfstream Park Jan. 26.
Hidden Scroll caught the bettors by surprise when he registered a 14-length front-running victory at 8-1 odds, but trainer Bill Mott was only surprised by how utterly dominant the homebred son of Hard Spun proved to be while running a mile over a sloppy track in 1:34.82.
"It was a surprise he won as easily as he did, but I think we were excited and high on him going into the race," Mott said. "I don't think it was any surprise to us that he won, but the way he won in the fashion that he won was a bit of a surprise and awesome, to put it mildly."
Joel Rosario has the return mount aboard Hidden Scroll.
If Hidden Scroll's stakes debut is the most anticipated among the least experienced Fountain of Youth entrants, Global Campaign's entry into stakes competition may well be the second-most awaited.
Owned by Sagamore Farm LLC and WinStar Farm LLC, the son of Curlin has produced two brilliant victories to launch his career during Gulfstream's Championship Meet. The Kentucky-bred colt debuted with a 5 ¾ lengths at seven furlongs Jan. 5 before taking a 1 1/16-mile optional claiming allowance by 2 ¼ lengths a month later.
"I don't know how many are going to be in there, but I would like to get a decent post, and I don't want to run on a sloppy racetrack but I would like to run here if we could," trainer Stanley Hough said. "He'll definitely be prepared to run if that's what we decide to do."
Regular rider Luis Saez has the call.
Bourbon Lane Stable and Lake Star Stable's Bourbon War also registered an eye-opening performance at Gulfstream Park in his most recent start. The son of Tapit captured a 1 1/16-mile optional claiming allowance Jan. 18 by a going-away 2 ¼ lengths in 1:43.54.
The Mark Hennig-trained colt previously won his Nov. 14 debut at Aqueduct over next-out winner Moretti by 2 ¼ lengths. He returned to finish a wide fourth under Irad Ortiz Jr. in the Remsen (G2) at Aqueduct Dec. 1.
"He has a competitive nature. But also he has a good mind. Since he ran that first time, it's like he's just waiting for the rider to tell him what to do next," Hennig said. "I think Irad rode him that way. If you go back, he gave him a little extra education in the Remsen, which benefited us in the last race."
Hennig is hopeful Bourbon War will make good strides on the Road to the Triple Crown in the Fountain of Youth, which offers qualifying points (50-20-10-1) for the May 4 Kentucky Derby.
"We'd like to see another move forward and pick up some points in the process. That would be the goal," Hennig said.
Ortiz has the mount.
R. A. Hill Stable and Gatsas Stables' Vekoma is among of the most inexperienced Fountain of Youth participants, but the undefeated son of Candy Ride will bring graded-stakes credentials into Saturday's race. Trained by George Weaver, the Kentucky-bred colt captured the mile Nashua (G3) at Aqueduct despite a less-than-clean start in only his second career race Nov. 4.
Vekoma debuted Sept. 23 at Belmont Park with a sharp 1 ¼-length triumph over next-out winners Epic Dreamer and Mihos, running six furlongs in a swift 1:08.93.
"This looks like a contentious race with some good horses in there. I guess we're going to find out where we stand," Weaver said. "We've had a little time off, now we're ready to get back in action.
Vekoma will make his first start around two turns Saturday.
"We have to ask him the question. It's that time of year. He's a very talented horse and we need to find out whether we'll be headed to the Derby," Weaver said. "He's a good colt. If he can get a mile and a sixteenth, we'll take on a mile and an eighth and see how he does that."
Manuel Franco has the return mount.
Grade 1 stakes-placed Code of Honor will seek to rebound from a disappointing effort in the Jan. 5 Mucho Macho Man at Gulfstream Saturday. W.S. Farish's homebred son of Noble Mission had a troubled start before turning in a flat fourth in the mile Mucho Macho Man.
"I thought maybe he needed the race. He's never been a really big-statured horse, so I never trained him hard. I just made up my mind that I was going to get into him and see if he could take it physically. So far, he has," said Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey, who saddled Orb for a victory the 2013 Fountain of Youth on his way to triumphs in the Florida Derby and the Kentucky Derby (G1). "I think he's had a good two months."
Code of Honor had raced twice previously, registering a front-running victory at six furlongs in his Aug. 18 debut at Saratoga and recovering from a stumbling start to finish second in the mile Champagne (G1) at Belmont Oct. 6.
McGaughey awarded the return mount to Hall of Famer John Velazquez.
Calumet Farm's Everfast will seek to improve on a second-place finish in the Feb. 2 Fasig-Tipton Holy Bull (G2) at Gulfstream Saturday. The Dale Romans-trained colt made a late surge after stalking the pace to finish just a length behind Harvey Wallbanger at 1 1/16 miles. The son of 2012 Florida Derby winner Take Charge Indy took bettors by surprise, going to post for his seventh career start at 128-1
"He surprised me. He surprised me that he lost. That was the only surprise that I saw. I was disappointed coming out of it," said Romans, who saddled Promises Fulfilled for an 18-1 upset victory in last year's Fountain of Youth. "I thought he would win. He just seems good. He acts like he's better than the races beforehand and I thought he'd run a big race, and he did."
Everfast, who will once again be ridden by Chris Landeros, had finished off the board in his three previous graded-stakes starts in the Bashford Manor, Breeders' Futurity and Kentucky Jockey Club.
Reeves Thoroughbred Racing and William Branch's Frosted Grace will stretch out around two turns for the first time in the Fountain of Youth. The son of Mark Valeski broke a step slowly from his rail post position and finished fifth in the Feb. 2 Swale (G3) at seven furlongs.
Epic Dreamer, who finished second behind Vekoma in his debut and tired while finishing fourth in the Holy Bull; Gladiator King, a six-furlong stakes winner at Tampa Bay Downs four starts back; and Union Destiny, who finished third in the Dec, 8 Smooth Air; round out the field.
Maximus Mischief Ruled Out of Fountain of Youth
Trainer Robert `Butch' Reid Jr. cancelled plans to run Maximus Mischief in next Saturday's $400,000 Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park following a subpar workout Sunday morning.
"The horse didn't breeze too good, so he is out of the Fountain of Youth," Reid said.
Maximus Mischief breezed a half-mile in 49.02 seconds under jockey Jose Ortiz.
"He just kind of went through the motions. The jockey wasn't happy with the way he galloped out," Reid said. "All things considered, we're going to go back to the drawing board and look for another spot."
Owned by Cash is King LLC and LC Racing, Maximus Mischief won the first three races of his career, including a 2 ¼-length victory in the 1 1/8-mile Remsen (G2) at Aqueduct Dec.1 following a pair of easy wins at Parx.
The 3-year-old son of Into Mischief sustained his first loss while finishing third in the $350,000 Fasig-Tipton Holy Bull (G2) at Gulfstream Feb. 2. Sent to post as the 4-5 favorite, Maximus Mischief pressed the pace into mid-stretch but was out-finished by victorious Harvey Wallbanger and runner-up Everfast.
Sagamore Farm and WinStar Farm's Global Campaign, undefeated in two career starts, remains possible for the Fountain of Youth after working five furlongs Sunday morning at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream's satellite training facility in Palm Beach County.
"He worked in 1:01 and [three-fifths]," trainer Stanley Hough said. "He went in company, but it was a nice, controlled work. We were happy with it."
It was the second work for Global Campaign since the son of Hall of Famer Curlin, unraced at 2, won a 1 1/16-mile optional claiming allowance by 2 ¼ lengths Feb. 9. Both his victories have come over Gulfstream's main track.
Hough said the connections are considering both the Fountain of Youth and Tampa Bay Derby (G2) March 9.
"He likes this track and it's close to home, so we're leaning toward that way, but we'll talk it over," Hough said. "Global worked good and came back good, so I think he's prepared to go either place. We're going to see how the week goes and try to do the best thing for us and the horse. As far as the work today, it was very satisfying."
Everfast, Admire & Signalman Breeze for Fountain of Youth
Graded-stakes winner Signalman breezed five furlongs in 1:02.52 at Gulfstream Park Saturday, turning in a `solid' tune-up for next Saturday's $400,000 Fountain of Youth (G2), the 1 1/16-mile final prep for the $1 million Florida Derby (G1) March 30.
"It was a nice solid workout. We wanted a maintenance breeze. We didn't want to work too fast at this point in the season. We still have a couple months for the big races. This is a prep," trainer Kenny McPeek said.
"This will be his first race of the season. This is a nice horse. He galloped out good."
Owned by Tommie Lewis, David Bernsen LLC and Magdalena Racing, Signalman worked in company with Harvey Wallbanger, whom McPeek saddled for an upset victory in the $350,000 Fasig-Tipton Holy Bull (G2) at Gulfstream Park Feb. 2. Harvey Wallbanger was also clocked in 1:01.75.
"We're going to wait on Harvey. He still needs to get a little bigger and stronger for that next step," McPeek said. "We've got plenty of time. We're going to wait probably for the Florida Derby."
Signalman, who will make his 2019 debut in the 1 1/16-mile Fountain of Youth, closed out his 2018 campaign with a victory in the Nov. 24 Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill Downs, where, three weeks earlier, he had closed from 10th to finish third in the $2 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1).
Dale Romans-trained Fountain of Youth nominees Everfast and Admire also breezed at Gulfstream Park Saturday morning.
"I'm not sure which one is running, but I'll figure it out in the next day or two," Romans said. "They both worked well enough to run."
Calumet Farm's Everfast breezed five furlongs in 1:02.52 in his first workout since finishing second, a length behind Harvey Wallbanger, in the Holy Bull at 128-1.
"He's just a little push-button horse. He goes out there and takes care of business," said Romans, who reported that he had wagered $200 to win but didn't place a place wager on Everfast, who paid $81.40 for a $2 place bet. "He doesn't wow you but he just does things right."
Working in company with maiden winner Come On Gerry, who finished eighth in the Holy Bull, Admire was clocked in 1:00.82 for five furlongs.
"I just wanted him to show good energy and wanted him to do something and work kind of fast, and he did," Romans said.
Albaugh Family Stables LLC's son of Cairo Prince finished fifth in the Feb. 2 Withers (G3) at Aqueduct after breaking his maiden at Churchill Downs Nov. 24.
2019 Fountain of Youth Attracts 43 Nominations
Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) show finisher Signalman, unraced since winning the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) in his 2-year-old finale, and 2018 Remsen (G2) winner Maximus Mischief are among 43 sophomores nominated to the $400,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) Saturday, March 2 at Gulfstream Park.
The 73rd running of the 1 1/16-mile Fountain of Youth - the next step on the road to the $1 million Florida Derby (G1) March 30 - headlines a spectacular card featuring nine stakes, all graded, worth $1.62 million in purses.
Signalman was second to Knicks Go in the Breeders' Futurity (G1) in his stakes debut last fall, running third to 2-year-old champion Game Winner in the Juvenile and taking the Kentucky Jockey Club by a neck Nov. 24 - all at 1 1/16 miles - for trainer Ken McPeek. Stablemate Harvey Wallbanger, 29-1 upset winner of the Fasig-Tipton Holy Bull (G2) Feb. 2, is nominated but expected to train up to the Florida Derby.
Maximus Mischief suffered his first loss in four career starts in the 1 1/16-mile Holy Bull, his sophomore debut. He won his first three races by 17 combined lengths, capped by a 2 ¼-length triumph in the 1 1/8-mile Remsen Dec. 1 at Aqueduct.
Also prominent among Fountain of Youth nominees are Bourbon War, who bounced back from a fourth in the Remsen to win a 1 1/16-mile allowance Jan. 18 at Gulfstream; Call Paul and Zenden, 1-2, respectively, in the seven-furlong Swale (G3) Feb. 2; 2018 Champagne (G1) runner-up Code of Honor; Grade 3 turf winner Current; Holy Bull runner-up Everfast; Global Campaign, two-for-two this winter at Gulfstream; Hidden Scroll, a 14-length maiden special weight winner Jan. 26 at Gulfstream for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott; and Maximum Security, who moved to 4-0 with a runaway triumph Feb. 20 over Gulfstream's main track.