Violence takes his first steps on the ‘Derby Trail’ as the favorite in Saturday’s $400,000 Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream Park.
The Fountain of Youth is worth a total of 85 points in the ‘Road to the Kentucky Derby Point Standings’ with 50 points to the winner, 20 to second, 10 to third and five for fourth.
Violence, owned by Black Rock Thoroughbreds, drew post No. 3 and was made the 9-5 favorite.
Regular jockey Javier Castellano will be back aboard Violence facing 10 rivals in the historic 1 1/16 miles test as they team up for the first time since they won the $750,000 CashCall Futurity (G1) at Hollywood Park by 1 ½ lengths on Dec. 15. A $600,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase by Medaglia d’Oro, Violence won both of his previous starts in New York, including the Nashua Stakes (G2) at Aqueduct on Nov. 4.
“We got him back here to Palm Meadows right after the CashCall,” said Pletcher recently. “He’s done really well so far and everything has gone according to plan while we’ve focused on getting him ready for the Fountain of Youth. The main thing in choosing to run him in the CashCall was the timing and the fact that Hollywood, although it is a synthetic track, plays more like dirt than any of the other synthetics.”
As far as strategy in the Fountain of Youth, Pletcher said, “He’s very tractable and can keep close to the pace if he needs to. He’s very versatile. We’ll see how it plays out with Majestic Hussar (possibly on lead) and how fast he goes, but he (Violence) won’t let anybody sneak away from him too far.”
While Violence is expected to be a clear favorite in the Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth, which horses fall in next in the wagering appears wide-open between other top contenders, including Hardaway Stable’s Speak Logistics; Newtown Anner Stud and partners’ Falling Sky, Racing LLC’s He’s Had Enough, and Team Valor International’s Cerro.
Speak Logistics (12-1) is the ‘other’ 3-year-old in trainer Eddie Plesa Jr.’s barn this season as he has Trilogy Stable and his wife Laurie’s Gulfstream Park Derby and Holy Bull Stakes (G3) winner Itsmyluckyday sitting this race out while preparing for his next start in the $1 million Florida Derby (G1) here on March 30. Jockey Joel Rosario gets aboard Speak Logistics for the first time in the Fountain of Youth.
A $62,000 OBS April 2-year-old purchase by High Cotton, Speak Logistics has solid credentials of his own as he won the $300,000 In Reality Division of the Florida Stallion Stakes at Calder in October before a seventh-place finish in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Santa Anita on Nov. 3, although beaten only 5 ¾ lengths for it all by Shanghai Bobby.
In one race since then, Speak Logistics finished fourth in the Sam Davis Stakes (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs on Feb. 2. “He got shut off as he was making his move on the inside in the upper stretch. I thought he was going to get right on through, but it closed up on him. The timing is right for this to be his next race. We gave him five weeks on a farm in Ocala after the Breeders’ Cup.”
Falling Sky (6-1) won the Sam Davis by a hard-fought neck in a wire-to-wire performance after a 1 ¼ lengths allowance score going 6 ½ furlongs at Gulfstream in his previous start on Dec. 15. The son of Lion Heart had made two previous starts, winning his debut at Churchill Downs by four lengths on Nov. 1 and finishing fourth in the Inaugural Stakes at Tampa Bay on Dec. 1. Jockey Jose Espinoza is named to ride from Post Position 10.
Jockey Mario Guiterrez will be on hand from California to ride He’s Had Enough (8-1) if he comes to South Florida for the Fountain of Youth for trainer Doug O’Neill, who also has him entered in Saturday’s $400,000 Risen Star Stakes (G2) at Fair Grounds in New Orleans.
After both races were drawn Monday, O’Neill said, “We drew post nine in the Fountain of Youth and 12 of 15 in the Risen Star,” said O’Neill. “Mr (Paul) Reddam is in a meeting at the moment and we’ll discuss it, but I’d say we’re leaning toward the Fountain of Youth.”
He’s Had Enough, a roan/gray son of Tapit, finished a game second by a head behind Shanghai Bobby as a 20-to-1 longshot in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, but has disappointed in two starts since when fifth behind Violence in the CashCall Futurity and third in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita on Feb. 2.
Jockey Joe Rocco, Jr. rides Cerro (4-1) as he turns back in distance from an ‘a other than’ allowance victory over the track at 1 1/8 miles on Jan. 26. The Irish-bred son of Mr. Greeley is trained by Graham Motion and won his only start as a 2-year-old in Italy before four starts in the U.S., beginning with a sixth-place try in the Pilgrim Stakes (G3) on turf at Belmont Park in October.
Two other contenders to watch getting a test in the Fountain of Youth to earn a place on the ‘Derby Trail’ are Stuart Janney III and Phipps Stable’s Kentucky homebred Orb (12-1) with jockey John Velazquez to ride for trainer Shug McGaughey and Joseph Witek’s Majestic Hussar (6-1) and jockey Luis Saez in the saddle for trainer Eddie Kenneally.
Orb makes his stakes debut after a one-length ‘a other than’ allowance victory going 1 1/8 miles over the track on Jan. 26 after four starts in New York as a 2-year-old. The son of Malibu Moon finished third and fourth twice until a two-length maiden special score at Aqueduct going a mile on Nov. 24 before his Gulfstream victory.