Team Valor International's Cerro breezed five furlongs in 1:01 2/5 over Palm Meadows's fast dirt on Sunday in preparation for a likely start in the Grade 2, $400,000 Fountain of Youth going 1 1/16 miles on Saturday at Gulfstream Park. With exercise rider David Nava up, Cerro worked in company with Went the Day Well, who clocked the same time.
"I thought he went super, and we definitely plan to enter. As long as he gets a decent post position, we'll run," trainer Graham Motion said. "If he draws lousy, we won't run him. We'll go back to our original plan and run him in the Palm Beach."
Cerro, who began his career on turf in Italy, defeated a solid group of runners in a 1 1/8-mile allowance at Gulfstream on January 26. Following his recent score, Team Valor International had set a schedule that included the Grade 3, $150,000 Palm Beach at nine furlongs over the Gulfstream turf course on March 3 and the Grade 3 Spiral going the same distance on Turfway Park's Polytrack March 23.
The Fountain of Youth entered the picture only recently for the Irish-bred son of Mr. Greeley.
"I'd say partly because we saw so many of these horses skipping it," Motion explained. "You also have to bear in mind, when you start thinking about the points and all that, you don't want to put your eggs in one basket and wait for the one race in Kentucky."
Churchill Downs has instituted a new points system for qualifying for the Kentucky Derby field, replacing the former system based on graded-stakes earnings. The Palm Beach is not included in the new system.
"It just seems logical to take a shot in this race if things continue to go well," Motion said. "We'll see how he does. I wish it was a mile and an eighth. It's probably the only thing I would change, only because he's already been a mile and an eighth."
Stablemate Howe Great, who captured the Palm Beach last season, will join Cerro at Gulfstream next Saturday as he is being pointed to the Grade 3, $150,000 Canadian Turf.
"This seems to be a good spot to bring him back in. It's not going to be an easy race by any means, but he obviously likes Gulfstream," Motion remarked.
Last season, the son of Hat Trick went three-for-three on the Gulfstream turf, winning an allowance race and the Kitten's Joy before defeating Dullahan in the Palm Beach. Howe Great hasn't raced since finishing seventh in the Grade 1 Jamaica Handicap at Belmont Park on October 6.
"He's done well since we've freshened him up after the Jamaica. It was a weird race. It was very soft and I just don't think he handled it," Motion said. "We felt at that point, he'd had a long year. We brought him down here to freshen him up.