This edition of the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth is neither short on quality nor quantity, with a field of 12 entered to run and a few legitimate Derby prospects among them. Yet there is also a fair amount of filler in this race, with much of it drawn down toward the rail, creating a situation in which a few major contenders are significantly disadvantaged by their post position draws. That is not the case for the likely favorite Dennis’ Moment, who attempts to kick off his 3-year-old campaign on a far more positive note than his juvenile season ended.
It’s no surprise that the Pace Projector is predicting a fast pace with a field this large. As Seen On Tv (#6) and Shotski (#10) are depicted vying for the lead with Candy Tycoon (#1) in close pursuit. Yet there are other potential pace players, as Ete Indien (#11) has done his best work on the front end and race favorites Dennis’ Moment (#5) and Chance It (#12) are unlikely to be far off the leaders. What the race lacks are capable closers, so even if the early fractions are fast, it still seems likely that one of those contesting or chasing the pace will be successful.
The major story in this Fountain of Youth is the return of Dennis’ Moment (#5), one of the most exciting 2-year-olds of 2019. His championship bid ended in disaster at the Breeders’ Cup as he stumbled badly at the start and was never a factor. Yet he had already distinguished himself as a rare talent prior to that, having destroyed a solid field of maidens at Ellis Park prior to impressively handling his two-turn debut in the Grade 3 Iroquois.
As a 2-year-old, Dennis’ Moment was already earning speed figures that would win many of these Kentucky Derby preps, so he doesn’t necessarily need to improve to beat this field. The performance he put forth in that defining maiden-breaking score is particularly noteworthy for the fact that he earned a 116 TimeformUS Speed Figure, which was actually adjusted down from a 122 final time figure. Numbers like that are rarely seen among juveniles, and it certainly stands up to scrutiny in retrospect. While he easily passed his stamina test in the Iroquois, the performance wasn’t quite as freakish. He beat a solid group, but horses like runner-up Scabbard and third-place finisher Lebda have proven to be fairly ordinary in their subsequent starts. That’s not to suggest that the speed figure is too high – it’s not – but it does cause me to question whether all of the hype surrounding this horse is really deserved. Dennis’ Moment is apparently training well for his return but it feels like he’s going to be an awfully short price and some of his rivals have already stepped up to run just as fast, even if they haven’t done so with as much style and panache as this favorite.
The two biggest threats to the favorite may be the pair exiting the Mucho Macho Man. It remains to be seen if that local prep’s winner Chance It (#12) will end up running here, since he got the worst of the post position draw, forced to leave from the outside slot. That post is especially detrimental going this uniquely configured 1 1/16 miles at Gulfstream where they start just ahead of the turn. Chance It ran a fantastic race in the Mucho Macho Man, but he did save every inch of ground and foul the runner-up in the late stages. I also have some concerns about his stretching back out around two turns. While he has won his only two-turn test to date, he did so against a much weaker field while earning the lowest TimeformUS Speed Figure since his career debut.
Of the pair who prepped in the Mucho Macho Man, I strongly prefer AS SEEN ON TV (#6). This colt burst onto the scene in New Jersey last year, losing nothing in defeat when second to the promising Meru in a very fast Smoke Glacken Stakes. He only improved from there, easily handling another stakes test at Gulfstream Park West before stretching out to the mile in the Mucho Macho Man. He has only raced in one-turn races thus far, but there are reasons to be optimistic about his chances in this initial two-turn test. The Mucho Macho Man performance was the best of his career, and the 112 TimeformUS Speed Figure that both he and Chance It were assigned seems completely legitimate, if not a little low, considering the subsequent exploits of those who finished behind them.
Many will be uneasy about As Seen On Tv stretching out, but his pedigree indicates that, if anything, the added distance should help him. Lookin At Lucky is a solid stamina influence, routinely siring horses who have no distance limitations. And there is just as much stamina coursing through his female family’s bloodlines. His dam Untamed Passion only routed once unsuccessfully, but she has produced a few notable route winners, topped by Cage Fighter, who won routing on both dirt and turf and nearly pulled off an upset in the Grade 3 Knickerbocker going 1 1/8 miles. Furthermore, his dam is a half-sister to Fantasticat, a winner of the Grade 2 Super Derby over nine furlongs, and she is out of Lotta Dancing, a Grade 3-winning dirt router.
As Seen On Tv drew well in the middle of the pack and has an aggressive rider on board, so he should manage to work out a fair trip even if the early pace is on the quick side. I like the grit and tenacity he’s shown in his races and I believe he’s the right alternative to the favorite.
I would also consider some others for the exotics, such as proven stakes performers Ete Indien (#11) and Shotski (#10), though both may be hindered by their wide draws. The former did nothing wrong when finishing second to leading Derby prospect Tiz the Law in the Holy Bull earlier this month. Like his stablemate Sole Volante, Ete Indien has proven that he is indeed best on dirt. The question for him is whether he can be as successful from a rating position, since he’s unlikely to make the lead here. He did shown the ability to pass horses on turf and he’s already handled this distance, which is more than others can claim.
Two weeks ago we saw a horse exit a maiden event to take down a division of the Risen Star and solidify a spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate, and there are a couple of last-out maiden winners to consider in this lineup. Country Grammer (#7) may attract some support, but I thought he benefited from a very favorable set of circumstances when he won at Aqueduct last time. I would prefer Candy Tycoon (#1), who got the best of the post position draw. There was real hype around this horse last summer and it’s possible that he’s just finally figuring things out. Yet even if he works out a perfect trip, he would need to significantly improve upon his top speed figure.
Exacta Key Box: 6 with 5,10,11,12
Trifecta: 5,6 with 5,6 with 1,7,10,11,12
Trifecta: 5,6 with 1,10,11,12 with 5,6