While there aren’t as many proven commodities in this Derby Prep as there were in the Risen Star two weeks ago, there are several promising runners in this full field. I’m not sure if we’re going to see the Kentucky Derby winner come out of this race, however, I think this race will produce multiple future stakes winners. There was a big scratch announced Wednesday, as Mo Donegal, third place finisher in the Holy Bull and the morning line favorite, defected after spiking a fever. Todd Pletcher will send out the highly touted, Emmanuel, to take on the runner-up in the Holy Bull, Simplification, along with ten others. The 1 Mile and 1/16 distance at Gulfstream starts into the first turn and ends at the 1/16 pole, leaving a short stretch. Even though White Abarrio won the Holy Bull last month at the same distance while starting from post 8, horses with inside posts tend to have an advantage at this distance here. That one is sitting this one out while waiting for the Florida Derby next month.
This race is a part of the stakes heavy “1/st Saturday” cards at Gulfstream and Santa Anita. There are several graded stakes on both coasts, along with some innovative wagers. In addition to being a leg in all of the late multi-race bets at Gulfstream, it’s also the 4th leg in the All Stakes Dirt Pick-5. That sequence also consists of the San Carlos, The Gulfstream Mile, the San Felipe, and the Santa Anita Handicap. That wager has a $1 minimum wager and a low 12% takeout, which should be enticing to many handicappers.
Gulfstream Park Saturday 3/5/22, Race 2: The Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes
85 Total Derby points (50/20/10/5)
1- Markhamian (20-1 ML) : He’s one of three Florida breds in this large field of three year olds. He was last seen winning the Pasco Stakes going seven furlongs at Tampa Bay Downs in January. Perhaps the Sam F. Davis came up a little fast for him, but I’m a little surprised to see him entered here as opposed to the Tampa Bay Derby next weekend. He’s only had two recorded works since that race 49 days ago, which is a little concerning for me. He’s drawn well and will get to save ground, however, there’s going to be several that are wanting to be forwardly placed, and I think it’ll be tough for him to win in this spot.
2 – Simplification (7-2 ML, 100-1 Circa) : Much was made of his disastrous trip last out in the Holy Bull. On paper, I thought he had the potential to be the lone speed that day and could have taken that field gate to wire. However, he missed the break and was never able to secure any suitable early position. He did work his way through the field and ran on well to hold off Mo Donegal for second, which was important for me. He didn’t get to run his race, but he didn’t pack it in either. He’s drawn well again and Sano makes the rider switch to Jose Ortiz. On the flip side, this field might be tougher, and I’d be shocked if there wasn’t a faster pace in the early going in this race compared to the pace in the Holy Bull. I do believe the goal will be to have him near the front end in early going here, and I think he’ll be tough to run down. I thought his last performance was the kind of educational race that could make him very dangerous moving forward.
3 – Howling Time (15-1, 150-1 Circa) : He’s one of three runners in this race making his first start as a three year old in this race. He was last seen finishing 5th in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill in November. He was scheduled to make his return to the races in the Sam F. Davis last month, but was scratched after spiking a fever during the week. He was a surprise leader on the front end in that race after being in the middle of the pack at first call when he won the Street Sense Stakes in October. I’m not sure why he was so keyed up that day, but I don’t think trying to take a field gate to wire is going to be his game. He was working well for Romans in the mornings here prior to being entered in the Tampa race and he’s fired a pair of bullets since scratching from that race. If Talamo is able to get him to relax in this race, I think he could wind up sitting a very good trip. I think he’s very interesting in this spot today, especially if he goes off around his 15-1 morning line figure.
4 – In Due Time (6-1 ML, 40-1 Circa): He’s coming off a monster effort in a one turn mile allowance race on this course last month. He was facing a solid field, including a pair of highly regarded Pletcher runners that afternoon. He broke well, and settled in a close up 7th place at the first call, sitting just off a fairly swift pace for the distance. Paco Lopez moved him off the rail and he ranged up and blew by the front runners, powering off to win by 5+ lengths. He stopped the clock in 1:35:4 and earned a 92 Beyer for his effort. He certainly appeared to relish the added distance, going from six furlongs to one mile and he has been working well at Palm Meadows for Kelly Breen. He’s the first foal from an unraced Curlin mare, sired by Not This Time, so there’s reason to believe that, from a pedigree standpoint, he can get the distance. Like Howling Time, he could wind up sitting a very nice trip from his post.
5 – Dean Delivers (15-1 ML, 175-1 Circa): Since breaking his maiden on debut back in June, he’s delivered three consecutive second place efforts, most recently finishing behind My Prankster in the Grade 3 Swale Stakes at seven furlongs. He’s in his third race off the layoff, and his first two starts in 2022 have been sharp. My concern is that his pedigree is very sprint oriented, and I fear that he’ll have some distance limitations, being sired by Cajun Breeze out of a Yes It’s True mare. I’ll look elsewhere in this deep field.
6 – Rattle N Roll (12-1 ML, 30-1 Circa): It speaks to the depth of this field that the only Grade 1 winner in the bunch is 12-1 on the morning line. He won the last two races of his two year old campaign, breaking his maiden at Churchill, when he rebounded after pulling up in a nine furlong maiden race at Saratoga. He followed that effort up with an 8-1 upset in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland, beating Classic Causeway. That one went on to be the runner up in the Kentucky Jockey Club and the winner of the Sam F. Davis. He rallied into a fast pace to win that race, and he may get a similar pace set up here. He’s been working steadily since January for his return. I prefer others, but he’s not impossible here.
7 – A.P.’s Secret (20-1 ML, 80-1 Circa) : He’s started his career with three solid efforts for Saffie Joseph. He won his debut by four lengths, going seven furlongs back in November. He came back a month later and was second by four with N1X company, going the one turn mile. In January, he cleared that level, winning in gate to wire fashion at the same distance. All three races have been on this oval, and a race like this is the next logical step at this point in his career. However, he faces a very tough group and it looks like he could be overmatched with this field.
8 –Emmanuel (9-2 ML, 16-1 Circa): He’s the third choice on the morning line, but with his stablemate, Mo Donegal, scratching, don’t be surprised if he winds up going into the starting gate as the post time favorite. He’s never been tested in his two career starts, winning by almost seven lengths here when debuting at the one turn mile, and then winning by 4+ lengths when going a mile and forty yards against winners at Tampa. Pletcher likes using Tampa for allowance races with his lightly raced three year olds. We saw him make a similar move with Always Dreaming back in 2017. He’s worked well since his last start, earning a pair of bullets over at Palm Beach Downs. This son of More Than Ready certainly looks the part, but I feel he’ll be too short of a price for me in this race. I’d definitely cover him on multi-race tickets, but I’ll try to beat him vertically.
9 – High Oak (8-1 ML, 30-1 Circa) : The winner of the 2021 Saratoga Special makes his 2022 debut today. He was a narrow winner in his debut at Belmont, but was ultra-impressive when winning at the Spa, drawing off to score by 4+ lengths that day. The tank was empty in the Grade 1 Hopeful a few weeks later, finishing 4th in a race that didn’t come up as strong as usual. He’s been away since, returning to the worktab back in January. Bill Mott is sharp off the layoff, but I’m not completely sold on him here. I’ll be looking elsewhere.
10- Giant Game (15-1 ML, 30-1 Circa): He was well backed in the Holy Bull when making his first start as a three year old, but he laid an absolute egg that afternoon, finishing 8th, 24 lengths behind White Abarrio. Despite breaking from post 9 in that race, he ended up getting a decent trip. However, he came under a ride early and his race was over before they hit the quarterpole. There didn’t seem to be a real explanation for his poor effort. He reappeared on track in the morning on February 19th, and worked a solid four furlongs. He followed that up with a decent five furlong drill seven days later. If you were a believer in him before, you’ll definitely get better than the 4-1 you got on him last month, however, you’ll have to be willing to forgive that bad effort. I was trying to beat him last time though, and I’m not rushing to the windows to bet on him today.
11- O Captain (30-1 ML, 400-1 Circa) : He makes his third career start after a pair of scattered starts to kick off his career. He beat an open maiden special weight field here in August, blowing away an overmatched group by over nine lengths. He wasn’t seen again until the Limehouse Stakes on New Years Day, where was a well-beaten third. He now goes from six furlongs to a mile and one sixteenth, while advancing to graded stakes company off a 63 day layoff. Along with that, he has a difficult draw, so it’s hard for me to make a case for him today.
12- Mo Donegal (3-1 ML, 18-1 Circa): He spiked a low grade fever on Wednesday and was declared out of this race, opening the door for Galt to enter if his connections want to run. Mo Donegal will shift gears and now target the Wood Memorial on April 9th at Aqueduct.
13 AE: Galt (12-1 ML, 300-1 Circa): Songbird’s baby brother didn’t show a ton of ability in his first two races, but wintering in South Florida has done him well. His 4th place effort in the Holy Bull was by far his best race to this point in his career. However, he had a perfect rail draw and the main speed threat in that race, Simplification, missed the break. With everything breaking his way, the best he could do was a 4th place finish. He took a big step forward, but he’s certainly hovering around bounce territory. The wide post, if he does opt in, is not favorable at this distance on this course. I loved watching Songbird run, so as a fan, I’m rooting hard for him. However, as a handicapper, I’m looking elsewhere here.
The verdict: 3-4-2
I think this is a race where anything can happen. While I respect Emmanuel, I don’t think I can play him at a short price in this race. With the scratch of Mo Donegal, I’d be shocked if he wasn’t the post time favorite when the gates open. While he has a ton of potential, I think you could say the same thing about many of these today. I’ll try to beat him with some better prices.
I’m going to take a shot with Howling Time on top, despite the fact that he’s making his first start of the year. He was very good in his first two races, winning while stalking the pace. I can forgive his lackluster effort in the Kentucky Jockey Club, as he was unusually headstrong that evening, setting an aggressive pace. When you see the success of other horses coming out of that race, it’s easier to look past that effort. While I don’t love that starting here was Plan B for Dale Romans, he’s been working very well over this course. I think he can sit a good trip from post three and pass some tiring rivals at the top of the short stretch here.
In Due Time might get the same kind of trip in his stakes debut after a visually striking win to clear the N1X condition last time out. I don’t know if he can duplicate that effort at this level or when going two turns, but she definitely looked the part on the track last month. Simplification is another one that is playable here after a gutsy effort in a race where he completely tossed away his tactical advantage. He clearly likes racing here and gets an advantageous post draw in a race where many other live runners didn’t fare as well.
Each week, we’ll have an update on horses and races from the previous week that may produce starters for the 148th Kentucky Derby on May 7th, 2022. Current futures odds from Circa or Caesars-William Hill will be provided as they are available. Feel free to reach out on Twitter @EricSolomon718.