General a Rod made a favorable impression when capturing the $100,000 Gulfstream Park Derby on January 1 and the performance has become more noteworthy in pursuing weeks.
Although the son of Roman Ruler is set to go to post in Saturday's Grade 2 Fountain of Youth without a race since his New Year's Day triumph, his first stakes win was flattered by runner-up Wildcat Red's 4 3/4-length romp in the Grade 3 Hutcheson on February 1.
"He just gives us confidence the way he's doing," said Milke Maker, who trains the Kentucky-bred colt for J. Armando Rodriguez. "He's becoming the horse that we thought he would be and the other horses he ran against doing well certainly enhances things a bit. But there are different circumstances in this race."
General a Rod, who captured the one-turn, one-mile Gulfstream Derby by a head over Wildcat Red, is scheduled to make his first start in more than seven weeks and his first start around two turns in the 1 1/16-mile Fountain of Youth.
"He's a big horse that we've been taking our time with. I didn't want to train him for all the races here," Maker said, alluding to the decision to skip the Grade 2 Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park on January 25. "The timing was right for this race and the mile-and-a-sixteenth makes it better. I don't see any problem with him getting two-turns at all.
"He's a pretty aggressive horse and his gallop-outs in his works are always strong."
General a Rod debuted on October 18 in a seven-furlong race over Keeneland's synthetic surface, closing from off the pace to win going away by 2 3/4 lengths and surviving an inquiry for interference in the stretch run. He returned in a Churchill Downs allowance race with first-time blinkers and finished second behind Conquest Titan, who subsequently finished second in the Holy Bull.
"He was very green. It was something we flirted with even before his (first) race," Maker said of the decision to add blinkers. "We thought with time, he'd get better and better. But when he did that (drifting in), there was an inquiry in the race, so we put blinkers on him.
"They've helped him, but when he gets in front, he still gets lost. Last time, any time in the race, he looked like a winner, but he just didn't want to draw away from the other horse (Wildcat Red). After that race, he's changed for the better."
General a Rod is listed as the third choice on the Fountain of Youth morning line at 5-1. He will be ridden by Javier Castellano for the first time after Joel Rosario opted to ride Top Billing.