2019 Fountain of Youth Expert Picks with Betting Odds and Predictions
The Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Saturday is the first great Kentucky Derby prep race of the 2019 season. Or at least I hope that it will be. The field of 11 horses includes some very interesting, high-quality runners. And we are absolutely desperate for a great race after a prep race that just hasn't been that exciting or inspiring so far this year. And we need a great horse or two to emerge, because at this point it has been all about potential instead of accomplishment. The race has been an important one on the road to Louisville - every winner of this race since 2012 has gone on to run in the Derby, highlighted by 2013 Derby winner Orb, and 2012 Belmont winner Union Rags. Here's hoping that that streak of strength continues - and there is certainly enough talent here for that to be possible. Here is a look at the highlights of the field (Horse, Trainer, Jockey, Morning line odds):
Hidden Scroll, Bill Mott, Joel Rosario, 9/5: This horse, a son of impressive Derby also-ran Hard Spun, would be popular no matter what, but his success is certainly amplified because of what Justify did last year. This horse has run only once and made his debut only a month ago. But what a run it was - he decimated a field by 14 lengths and made it look impossibly easy. He earned a 104 Beyer speed rating, which is incredible for any horse - never mind one that is new to the racing game. He's bred very well, his connections are excellent, and the talent is immense. But now we get to see how good he really is as he takes a big step up in class. And Hard Spun offspring tend to shine on off tracks like he faced in that debut, so he will have to prove that he can look as good on a fast track like he is expected to face here. I'm a believer, but then I'm a sucker for horses exactly like this one. He'll be atop my exotics in this race.
Vekoma, George Weaver, Manny Franco, 7/2: There is a lot to like here, and the talent has been obvious in this short career. He is unbeaten, but he has run only twice, and we haven't seen him since winning the Nashua in November. He also has never run around two turns. This colt is taking a big step up in class, and it remains to be seen if he is up to it, but at the very least I feel confident that there is something to keep a close eye on here. I don't like his upside as much as the favorite, but I am not short on respect, either.
Signalman, Ken McPeek, Brian Hernandez Jr., 9/2: This colt was highly-touted late last year after winning the Kentucky Jockey Club after finishing a strong third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. But it feels like things have dimmed in terms of the love affair as time has passed. He has run his best races in Kentucky, so he could be a horse for a course. And that last win wasn't particularly fast and hasn't aged well. He already has 18 Kentucky Derby points, which puts him on the fringes of Derby eligibility already. But he needs to do a whole lot more before I am really convinced - and I am not really betting on him to do so against the top two colts here.
Code of Honor, Shug McGaughey, John Velazquez, 6/1: It's a bit strange to see Velazquez on a non-Pletcher horse at this point on the Derby trail. But then it is really odd to see a major Derby prep race in Florida that doesn't feature a Todd Pletcher horse. This is a weird year on his front. This is a colt that was disastrous last time out in the Mucho Macho Man, and now he needs to prove that the strength we saw from him at two was not just an illusion. I'm not holding my breath.
Bourbon War, Mark Hennig, Irad Ortiz Jr., 10/1: This is a son of Tapit, so that always stands out on the road to the Derby these days. He won very nicely in his last outing in an allowance race, and the upside here is significant. I question whether he is going to be a turf horse in the end, but at this price there is nice value here.
Gladiator King, 50/1: I'm not even listing the connections here because they don't deserve it. I won't get in the way of the dreams of any horse owner in most cases, but this horse is a total joke in this spot. He went off at 202/1 in the Holy Bull, and I am actually surprised he has already crossed the finish line - he was totally outclassed. Last weekend he dropped down in class and tried the turf. It went badly. And now he is here. This is animal abuse.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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