2018 Fountain of Youth Expert Picks with Odds and Betting Predictions
If I had to pick just one set of prep races to watch each year leading up to the Kentucky Derby, it would be the series at Gulfstream Park - the Holy Bull, Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby. I don't generally love racing at Gulfstream, but these three races are consistently competitive and entertaining. The Fountain of Youth also feels like a shift in the prep schedule every year - things seem to start to get serious when this race comes along. This year's race of nine horses is deep and interesting, and it should influence the Kentucky Derby before all is said and done - like it often does. The winner of this race will earn enough points to get into the Derby field - and the runner-up will be very close as well. Here are the highlights of the 10-horse field (odds are track morning line odds):
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Good Magic, Jose Ortiz, 7/5: This son of the great Curlin is the two-year-old champion. He ran only three times last year and earned only one win, but it came at the right time - after second-place finishes in his maiden debut and the Champagne Stakes he won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile handily to win the divisional honors. The Chad Brown trainee hasn't run since, but that's not a cause for concern here. He was freshened after the Juvenile with his Triple Crown campaign in mind and has been working extremely well since returning to the track a month ago. There is a risk in planning to head to the Derby with just two three-year-old preps, but Brown is extremely good at his job, so he gets the benefit of the doubt. At this point this horse is the class of his class. It remains to be seen if that is still the case Saturday night. I'm optimistic, but then I'm a sucker for Curlin's kids. The race sets up well for him, and he sits in the middle of the gate. He's the clear pick, but I suspect that this line will get bet down hard, and that will take a lot of the value out of the race. He will be useful as a key on top of exotics if you favor that approach, though.
Strike Power, Luis Saez, 4/1: This horse is unbeaten and has run only at Gulfstream. He could be a horse for the course. But he has run only twice, breaking his maiden in December and then taking the Swale Stakes at the beginning of February. That first win was very impressive - he ran away on the lead and won by eight lengths in just a hair over track-record time. His second win was less explosive, but it came against a better field, and he still wired the field. He'll be looking to lead the whole way again here, but it remains to be seen if he can get alone early on. I'm guessing he won't - opposing connections won't want to take that risk. I don't see this horse as a viable Derby contender because I don't think he'll get the distance. Here, though, he could be a piece of the action.
Free Drop Billy, Robby Albarado, 9/2: I love the breeding of this horse - he's by 2012 Belmont winner Union Rags out of a mare by European Horse of the Year Giant's Causeway. Distance isn't a concern here. But is this Dale Romans colt good enough to get to the Derby? He looked good leading up the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last year, scoring a win in the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity and finishing second in two more graded stakes. His Juvenile was a total disaster, though - he finished ninth in a horribly-run race. He bounced back with a nice second in the Holy Bull and has trained well leading up to the race. I still don't have a good sense of how good he is, but if he goes off anywhere near this price I will include him enthusiastically in my exotics. I love betting class, and there is no shortage here. He likes coming off the pace, so he'll be hoping Strike Power gets some company and the field sets a fast early pace.
Marconi, Javier Castellano, 8/1: He's a son of Tapit, like seemingly a quarter of every Derby field is these days. And his dam also is the dam of Breeders' Cup Classic winner Mucho Macho Man. This race really doesn't lack quality. This Pletcher colt has three starts, and I haven't yet liked any of them. There is talent, but he is immature and seems slow to advance. The connections are really strong, though, and there is a decent chance the horse will figure it out at some point. I'll be watching him going forward but won't bet that this is his time.
Gotta Go, Chris Landeros, 10/1: Interesting horse. After a couple of nice wins at Churchill Downs in the fall, he took a shot at graded company in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. It was just a mess - he finished 13th and looked like he was wearing roller skates. He regrouped to finish second behind Strike Power in the Swale last time out, and he has room to improve here. I don't like the choice of jockey, though. Landeros is a journeyman who has just four wins in 57 starts this year, and he has just seven career graded stakes wins. There are guys who will get that many in two weeks in this race. He's not an asset for a horse that really needs an asset in the saddle. I'll pass.
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