The Feb. 29 Fountain of Youth (G2) marked the second of three Kentucky Derby qualifiers at Gulfstream Park, and both races have been dynamite. Contested over 1 1/16 miles, the Fountain of Youth awarded points on a 50-20-10-5 scale to the top four finishers.
The $1 million Florida Derby (G1) on March 28, one of seven major final prep races in the Road to the Kentucky Derby series, is worth a combined 170 points (100-40-20-10) toward a berth in the projected 20-horse field.
Here are three takeaways from the Fountain of Youth:
1 – Ete Indien proved brilliant, will bring serious speed to the Kentucky Derby.
Florent Geroux, who was replacing an injured Luca Panici, hustled the dark bay colt to a short lead from the starting gate, and Ete Indien began to draw off spectacularly nearing the conclusion of the far turn, arguably losing focus late as he drifted out under the finish line while scoring by a widening 8 1/2-length margin.
Since switching to dirt for Patrick Biancone in mid-December, Ete Indien has run fast in three outings (103-104-103 Brisnet Speed ratings). He showed high class winning the Fountain of Youth convincingly, and will be a front-running factor in the May 2 Kentucky Derby after posting century-topping E1 and E2 Pace ratings in every dirt start.
2 – Fountain of Youth flattered Tiz the Law, Florida Derby shaping up to be super tough.
Tiz the Law easily registered the top Brisnet Speed rating (108) among 2020 Kentucky Derby contenders when defeating Ete Indien by three lengths in the Feb. 1 Holy Bull (G3), the first of three qualifiers at Gulfstream. He jumped to the top of many Kentucky Derby polls with the smashing performance.
Bettors took a more skeptical approach toward Ete Indien, who was overlooked as the 3.30-1 third choice in the 10-horse Fountain of Youth despite holding second by 11 1/2 lengths in the Holy Bull.
The budding stars will meet again in the Florida Derby, which is shaping up to be extremely salty. Multiple stakes winner Independence Hall, a top-ranked juvenile who will be looking to rebound after sustaining his first setback when second in the Sam F. Davis (G3), is also targeting the 1 1/8-mile race. Gouverneur Morris, who returned to action with a nice allowance tally at Tampa Bay Downs on Feb. 14, has been under consideration for Todd Pletcher.
3 – Dennis’ Moment emerges unscathed after finishing last, to seek turnaround in Blue Grass.
Dennis’ Moment faltered mightily as the 13-10 Fountain of Youth favorite, weakening to last in his 3-year-old debut. He didn’t break poorly or experience trouble at any stage, establishing a stalking position a few lengths off the pace through the opening stages, and began to come under ride on the far turn. When he got no response, Flavien Prat did not persevere aboard the well-regarded colt.
“I thought I was in a good spot,” Prat said. “When I hit the five-eighths pole, he just dropped the bit and after that I was done. After that, there was no reason to beat him up. He didn’t want to go.”
Dale Romans said they couldn’t find anything wrong afterwards, and connections will draw a line through the performance. Dennis’ Moment has epitomized an all-or-nothing performer throughout his five-race career. He’s generated such enthusiasm recording a pair of sparkling victories, but failed to beat a horse now thrice.
If everything goes right in the interim, Dennis’ Moment will get try to regain lost luster, and qualify for the Kentucky Derby, in the April 4 Blue Grass (G2) at Keeneland.