Wildcat Red will have a new rider when he makes his next start in the Grade 2, $400,000 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park on February 22.
Trainer Jose Garoffalo has lined up Luis Saez to ride Wildcat Red, an impressive 4 3/4-length winner of the seven-furlong Hutcheson on February 1 under Javier Castellano. The 2013 Eclipse Award winner and two-time defending meet champion, Castellano is committed to ride Gulfstream Park Derby winner General a Rod in the Fountain of Youth.
"I think Luis Saez is the right guy to put on," Garoffalo said. "We get along very well and he's won a lot of races for me, here and at Calder, so let's do it. Let's run."
Saez, 21, is second in the current meet standings with 48 wins, one ahead of Paco Lopez and 27 behind Castellano. Among his wins are Cairo Prince in the Holy Bull on January 25, Falling Sky in the Gulfstream Park Sprint on February 8 and Lea in the Hal's Hope on January 11.
"He can compete with all the big guys," Garoffalo stated. "He's been there before. I have a lot of confidence in him. He's young, but he's tough. He knows what to do."
Owned by Honors Stable Corp., Wildcat Red put in his final tune-up for the 1 1/16-mile Fountain of Youth with a half-mile breeze Friday morning over Gulfstream's fast main track under regular exercise rider Paco Mendoza.
"He went four furlongs in :49 and change (:49.02) very easily and handled the workout very good, so we're ready for the race. I'm very happy with him," Garoffalo declared.
"Actually, I would say he was better than before the Hutcheson. He has improved a lot since the last race. Everything looks like he's going to be ready for the Fountain of Youth."
From here, Garoffalo said he will give Wildcat Red, a son of D'wildcat, routine gallops leading up to the race.
"He's in good shape. He doesn't need to do too much," the horseman noted. "He's very athletic. I try not to stress him too much because he doesn't need much. With this workout, he'll be ready."
In other Fountain of Youth news, lightly raced Our Caravan is scheduled to make his third career start in the race for trainer Michael Dilger.
The bay son of Daaher broke his maiden by three lengths at Gulfstream on December 14 before finishing eighth of 11 in the January 25 Holy Bull. Both races, like the Fountain of Youth, were run at 1 1/16 miles.
"Our Caravan is on track for the Fountain of Youth," Dilger said. "He came out of the last race fantastic. He lacked game-day experience going into it, and he definitely got it that day."
Corey Lanerie has been aboard Our Caravan for both his starts. In the Holy Bull, they broke from post 5 and never reached contention, beaten 13 lengths by Cairo Prince.
"It didn't go exactly according to plan in his last race, but we knew we had an inexperienced horse going into it and it showed," Dilger admitted. "He's trained very well since the Holy Bull, and we're just going to give it another try."
Our Caravan has breezed twice since the Holy Bull, each time in company with fellow Anstu Stable three-year-old Big Guy Ian. Most recently, they were timed in 1:00 for five furlongs at Palm Meadows on Monday.
Big Guy Ian was fifth behind Grade 3-placed C. Zee in his December 13 debut at Gulfstream, then returned to break his maiden by 1 1/4 lengths on the Holy Bull undercard.
"They're the two most talented horses I have at the moment that are the fittest and can work together like that. It just makes sense," Dilger said. "It just happens that both their races were on the same day last time, and potentially on the same day next time as well. We're not 100 percent sure what we're going to do with Big Guy Ian just yet."