Anyone looking to bet against heavy favorite #8 Greatest Honour in Saturday’s Grade 2 Fountain of Youth is probably hoping for a bounce off his impressive score in the Holy Bull last month. However, a bounce seems unlikely in this situation given the horse’s career trajectory up until this point, nor is it something we typically see from Shug McGaughey runners.
Greatest Honour was brought along slowly through his early races, taking four starts to break his maiden. When he finally got that maiden diploma, he did so with a strong performance, overcoming trouble on the first turn to register a commanding victory from off the pace. That was a better effort than the 101 TimeformUS Speed Figure would indicate, so it shouldn’t have come as a great shock when he improved another 12 points in the Holy Bull. It’s natural for 3-year-olds to move forward dramatically at this time of year, and McGaughey generally sustains that improvement when they do. Over the past 5 years, McGaughey is 6 for 10 (60%, $4.51 ROI) with 3-year-old last-out winners in dirt route graded stakes events, while a seventh horse in that sample lost by a neck.
Greatest Honour figures to receive a similar trip to the one he got last time, as there is some speed drawn down towards the rail, so he can rate in mid-pack on the outside. I understand the urge to take shots against short prices, as anything can happen once they get out on the racetrack. I just can’t build a strong rational case against him.
The only viable strategy here is to focus on some narrow exotic plays, since I think there are several short priced alternatives to dismiss. I’m not convinced that #2 Prime Factor wants to go this far, as he traveled well on the far turn of the Holy Bull and had no punch in the stretch. He possesses a pedigree to suggest that distance will be his friend, but he’s yet to display that tendency on the racetrack. #4 Fire At Will improved by leaps and bounds in the fall of his two-year-old season, culminating in a decisive victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. Yet he’s achieved most of his success on grass, and his lone dirt performance will get him nothing here. Some will argue that he’s just a better horse now, but his pedigree is strongly geared towards turf. #1 Drain the Clock is the likely early leader from the rail. While he’s been visually impressive in his recent stakes wins, he’s been facing inferior fields in those races. He would have to produce a career-best effort on the stretch-out to stage an upset, which doesn’t seem particularly likely.
I’d be more interested in using #7 Tarantino and #10 Papetu underneath. The former ran very well in his lone dirt start in the Holy Bull, coming back to secure second from Prime Factor after contesting the pace. He figures to work out another good trip as he’s drawn outside of the other speeds. And Papetu wasn’t as good as Tarantino last time, but he had previously run a fast race in the Mucho Macho Man, suggesting that he’s improved since returning as a 3-year-old. He’ll be the biggest price of those I’d consider using in exotics, and he wouldn’t need to improve much at all to hit the board.
Exacta: 8 with 7, 10
Trifecta: 8 with 7, 10 with 7, 10