Trainer Michael Matz might be wearing roses again in the First Saturday in May. The man who saddled the brilliant Barbaro to a 2003 Kentucky Derby victory, only to have his fantastic horse break down in the Preakness Stakes two weeks later, will run Union Rags, the highest rated equine on almost everybody’s Kentucky Derby Top Ten list in this Sunday's Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park.
The Fountain of Youth will almost assuredly also attract two of Todd Pletcher’s top Kentucky Derby contenders, Discreet Dancer and Algorithms, as well as Kentucky Derby winning horseman Nick Zito’s Casual Trick. Even with a Zito trainee and two Pletcher horses in the starting gate, there’s no doubt which equine Racebook bettors will be watching on Feb. 25.
All eyes, and perhaps most of the money, will be on Union Rags. The horse, sired by Dixie Union, has all of the makings of a Kentucky Derby winner. Union Rags was sensational at two, running off three straight victories, including a win in the Grade I Champagne Stakes, before finishing second to Hansen in the BC Juvenile.
Will Union Rags have what it takes out of the gate, or is Matz simply using the Fountain of Youth as a prep race to ready his horse for a garland of roses under the Twin Spires on May 5?
Grade II Fountain of Youth Stakes
Where: Gulfstream Park
Distance: 1 1/16 miles
Condition: For Three-Year-olds
** All horses listed are probable for Sunday’s Fountain of Youth Stakes
Union Rags - - Fair Odds 2/1
If only 6 of the probable ponies enter the starting gate, then the Fountain of Youth Stakes might to be a two horse race between Union Rags and Algorithms. Union Rags has all of the makings of a Kentucky Derby winner, incredible breeding, hales from a Derby winning barn, and has won graded races. But, there’s an issue in regards to Union Rags’ chances of winning on Sunday. Michael Matz knows that the goal is the Run for the Roses on the First Saturday in May, not the Fountain of Youth Stakes. He’s not going to push his star three-year-old to do his best in Sunday’s contest. Why would he? Union Rags has enough graded earnings to get into the starting gate under the Twin Spires on May 5. It means that any race that Rags shows up in from now until the Kentucky Derby will be nothing more than a prep. Handicappers have to put Union Rags into the exacta in the Fountain of Youth because he’s such a good horse, but there’s nothing at stake. So, don’t expect the whip to come out, unless it’s to teach the pony something, in the stretch, and don’t expect this guy to run on for the victory.
Algorithms - - Fair Odds Even
Algorithms might go off at 4/5 in this and, guess what? He’d still be an overlay! Unless he gets hurt, and that could definitely happen (remember Eskendereya, another Pletcher horse, in 2010?), this guy is my pick to win the Kentucky Derby. Heck, unless he gets hurt or tired or Pletcher just does a horrible job with this dude, the Triple Crown might be in reach come June. Why? Algorithm’s grandsire, AP Indy, was the Kentucky Derby fave before being scratched the morning of the race. A.P. went on to win the Belmont Stakes and the Breeders Cup Classic in 1992. AP Indy sired Bernardini, Algorithms’ father, who won the Preakness Stakes in 2006. Cyrptoclearance sired Algorithms’ mother, Avaknowsthecode. Cryptoclearance was second in the Belmont Stakes but won the Florida Derby and Donn Handicap during his career. Algorithms is bred up and down to run at least 1 ½ miles. That’s important to note because the way that he ran when winning the Holy Bull Stakes in his last, where he thumped Hansen, shows that he’s got the speed to stay close to the pace if need be. This guy is simply loaded with talent. Undefeated, and mature beyond his race record, he tracked the pace in the Holy Bull over a less than perfect track without blinkers and won going away meaning that he understood jockey Javier Castellano’s cues. That makes Algorithms the one to beat in the Fountain of Youth. He’s the winner on Sunday unless he totally changes his disposition for some reason or something freaky happens.
Discreet Dancer - - Fair Odds 7/2
The other Pletcher trainee worked five furlongs in 1:00.22 just the other day over the Palm Meadow training track. Pletcher can get his horses to make big jumps going from allowance company, like Discreet Dancer is doing, to a graded stakes. If you go back in his lineage, it’s obvious that DD is well-bred. Nobody is going to talk smack about Storm Cat on the top and Mr. Prospector on the bottom, but he’s not nearly as seasoned as Algorithms because the Fountain of Youth will be his first race around two turns. He’s got a shot to get his picture taken, no doubt, but his buddy, that would be Algorithms, might have to throw in a clunker for him to win. Then again, Dancer could freak on the track and pull an Eskendereya. I hate to do this to you, my fellow horseplaying friends, but it’s your call on whether or not to back this dude come Sunday. My name’s Bennet and I ain’t in it!
Csaba - - Fair Odds 20/1
After breaking his maiden and an allowance victory, Csaba’s connections tried him on the turf in the Dania Beach at Gulfstream Park. That didn’t work out so well. Csaba finished 5th. Now, owner Bruce Hollander and trainer Phillip Gleaves are throwing this guy in a Grade II against Algorithms, Discreet Dancer and Union Rags. Because his pedigree screams turf, War Chant sired his mother and Csaba’s dad is Kitten’s Joy, there are no excuses for the turf flop. I’m not expecting this guy to show up back on the dirt against such talented horses. Demand huge odds before backing.
Casual Trick - - Fair Odds 8/1
Nick Zito is a fantastic trainer, and one of my favorites. Go For Gin scored me quite a bit of dough when upsetting Holy Bull in the Kentucky Derby back in the early 1990’s. So, I will always be a fan of NZ’s, but his horse, Casual Trick, put up a huge red flag in his last race. He looked terrific winning the Gulfstream Park Derby, but failed miserably only 28 days later in an allowance race. What happened? I don’t know. Trick was in perfect position at the top of the stretch and I actually saw the jockey start to make a move on him, but then the horse just sort of gave up. It was very odd. It was so odd, in fact, that I’ve got to believe that the horse is worth a look at 8/1 or higher in this. Maybe, the saddle slipped, the horse just ended up on the bad part of the track, or Zito wanted to give him a breather before the Fountain of Youth. Either way, if the odds are right, Casual Trick might be worth giving a shot to for win honors.
Fort Loudon - - Fair Odds 12/1
His Holy Bull run, where he finished 4th to Algorithms, wasn’t that bad. Jockey Rajiv Maragh got into him well before the quarter pole, yet the horse didn’t kick it into gear until the top of the stretch. It tells me that Fort Loudon might have learned something in the Holy Bull Stakes and that he could be much, much more difficult to handle on Sunday. He doesn’t appear to have the pure athleticism that Discreet Dancer, Union Rags and Algorithms have, but he’s obviously coming along well and the price will be better than nice on this guy. I believe Fort Loudon is a must use in any exotics because he appears to be on the upswing and he’ll be offering sweet odds in a race short of them.