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 1⁄16 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 1⁄2 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