Last seen winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Keeneland in early November, juvenile male champion Forte will open his three-year-old campaign in Saturday’s $400,000 Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park. He tops a field of 10 three-year-olds in the 1 1/16-mile race, which will award points on a 50-20-15-10-5 basis to the top five finishers as a Road to the Kentucky Derby series qualifier.
Here are three talking points for the Fountain of Youth.
1. Forte an imposing favorite, seeks to buck recent trend at Gulfstream
Forte boasts strong credentials, recording consecutive wins in the Hopeful (G1), Breeders’ Futurity (G1), and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last year, and the once-beaten colt is trained by two-time Kentucky Derby winner Todd Pletcher. The dark bay son of Violence has been installed as the 7-5 morning line favorite in the Fountain of Youth, and probably will be lower odds by post time, but Forte must overcome a negative trend.
The last four juvenile champs to open their three-year-old season at Gulfstream Park sustained upset losses. Classic Empire (2017), Shanghai Bobby (2013), and Hansen (2012) lost the Holy Bull (G3) at short odds, and Good Magic dropped the 2018 Fountain of Youth as the .70-1 favorite.
Forte remains the horse to beat, the only Fountain of Youth entrant to earn multiple triple-digit Brisnet Speed ratings, and he appears to be training forwardly in preparation. Leading rider Irad Ortiz Jr. will be up on Forte, who figures to be stalking the pace in midpack before offering his best run.
2. Rocket Can heads cast of Holy Bull returnees
Rocket Can made his stakes debut a winning one in the Feb. 4 Holy Bull, rallying wide to score by about a length, but questions remain about the quality of performance. His 93 Speed rating is one of the slowest from 12 Kentucky Derby qualifiers this year, and stablemate Shadow Dragon, a restricted maiden winner exiting a poor sixth in a New York-bred stakes, finished a clear second at 34-1. They didn’t receive much respect from the oddsmaker, as Rocket Can is tabbed as the 8-1 co-fourth choice and Shadow Dragon is a 12-1 outsider, and the Fountain of Youth will provide a better gauge on both Bill Mott-trained runners.
Legacy Isle (fourth) and Il Miracolo (fifth) are also back from the Holy Bull, and Cyclone Mischief (seventh) will try to rebound after fading to seventh as the 6-5 favorite.
3. Blazing Sevens a serious challenger
A convincing winner of the Champagne (G1) two back, Blazing Sevens rallied for fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile after a poor start, and the dark bay son of Good Magic has been pegged as the 7-2 second choice in his three-year-old opener. Joel Rosario will be up for Chad Brown. General Jim, who rallied to a sharp win in the seven-furlong Swale (G3) on the Holy Bull undercard, also merits respect on the stretch out in distance, and Mage will jump to stakes competition off a fast debut maiden triumph in late January, earning a 101 figure for a wire-to-wire romp at seven furlongs.