2023 Fountain of Youth Stakes Recap

Champion juvenile Forte maintained his Kentucky Derby favoritism with a facile victory in the Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park March 4.

Racing for the first time since winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) Nov. 4, Forte gave few concerns to those who backed him into 1-2 favoritism. Regular pilot Irad Ortiz Jr. settled him just off the speed as usual and made his move on the final turn.

Four-wide at the top of the stretch, he showed a fantastic turn of foot to zoom by some good opponents and cruise to the line 4 12 lengths clear.

It earned him 50 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby table, pushing his overall tally to 90 and securing a spot in the Churchill Downs starting gates on the first Saturday in May.

Holy Bull (G3) winner Rocket Can was close throughout and though he couldn’t match the winner, he held on comfortably for second and earned 20 points, taking his tally to 40 and pushing him to the top 10 in the Derby Road table.

Earning their first points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby were Cyclone Mischief (third, 15 points) and Mage (fourth, 10 points), while Holy Bull runner-up Shadow Dragon added five points to his tally for finishing fifth, taking his points total to 13.

Forte is expected to have his final Kentucky Derby prep in either the Florida Derby (G1) on April 1 or the Blue Grass (G1) on April 8.

By Alastair Bull

Fountain of Youth Stakes

Spectacular Bid, Tim Tam, Kauai King, Bet Twice, Forty Niner, Proud Truth, Thunder Gulch—you might assume any race with such an illustrious roster of winners is a Triple Crown race, or at least a Grade 1. In actuality this decorated list of champions belongs to the Fountain of Youth (G2), a historic Kentucky Derby prep race held at Gulfstream Park.

First run in 1945 and currently contested over 1 116 miles, the Fountain of Youth has been producing Derby contenders for generations. It was Calumet Farm’s Tim Tam who first put the race on the map by completing the Fountain of Youth/Kentucky Derby double in 1958, a feat subsequently replicated by Kauai King (1966), Spectacular Bid (1979), Thunder Gulch (1995), and Orb (2013).

Few Fountain of Youth winners have been more spectacular than Spectacular Bid. A Horse of the Year and Hall of Fame inductee, Spectacular Bid crushed his rivals by 8 12 lengths and stopped the timer in 1:41.20, just 0.20 off the stakes record set by Sensitive Prince in 1978.

Beaten Fountain of Youth runners have also enjoyed strong success in the Kentucky Derby, a testament to the quality of competition the race attracts. Derby winners Carry Back (1961), Forward Pass (1968), Dust Commander (1970), Cannonade (1974), Pleasant Colony (1981), Swale (1984), Unbridled (1990), and Go for Gin (1994) all came up short at Gulfstream before reaching the winner’s circle on the first Saturday in May.

The Fountain of Youth produced just one Kentucky Derby winner during the first two decades of the 21st century, though the race remained deeply relevant as a steppingstone toward the Triple Crown. Derby runners-up Ice Box (2010), Good Magic (2018), and Code of Honor (2019) all contested the Fountain of Youth, as did Preakness (G1) winner Shackleford and Belmont Stakes (G1) champions Jazil (2006) and Union Rags (2012).

As part of the Kentucky Derby Championship Series, the Fountain of Youth awards 50 Derby qualification points to the winner, essentially making the race a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Derby.

By J. Keeler Johnson

Fountain of Youth Previews:

Rogers and Kerstein: Inside the Kentucky Derby Podcast: A Stakes Race Superfecta Preview

Mucciolo: Expert Pick of the Week: 2023 Fountain of Youth Stakes

Scully: Forte returns against nine in Fountain of Youth

Johnson: Study Guide: Fountain of Youth