HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. Kentucky Derby fever begins in South Florida with the $1 million Florida Derby March 10. This Saturday, the $200,000 Fountain of youth Stakes (G1), serves as the final major prep for the 50th anniversary of the Run for the Orchids.
In 54 runnings, a total of 13 Kentucky Derby champions have competed in the Fountain of Youth prior to being draped with the blanket of roses.
Racing fans across the country will be able to place wagers on contenders for the Derby weeks in advance of the race. The odds more often than not will be more attractive than those on Derby Day.
Nevada race books have future book odds posted on over 150 possible Derby starters. For the third year in a row, Churchill Downs will also offer the future wager at U.S. simulcast outlets in three separate pools. These will be a trio of four-day wagering pools scheduled for Feb. 15-18, March 8-11, and April 5-8.
To illustrate how valuable these bets can be, if you liked Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus last year, you could have collected $27.80 to win if you bet early enough, compared to the $6.60 mutuel paid on Derby day.
Through the end of the Gulfstream meet, I will analyze the 3-year-old picture in Florida as it relates to the road to Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May.
Lets look at this weekends Fountain of Youth. The 1/16 mile event is expected to draw as many as 11 3-year-olds. The first three finishers in the Holy Bull Stakes (G3) last month are expected to go to the post: RADICAL RILEY, BUCKLE DOWN BEN and CEE DEE. However, none of these are likely to be favored. That role could go to one of the invaders from the West Coast: Global Gait or High Cascade.
GLOBAL GAIT will arrive this week from Bob Bafferts barn in California and follow the same winning strategy the trainer used with Captain Steve in winning the Donn Handicap. This Maryland-bred son of Concern carries a 3-for-4 record, including the $60,000 Rollicking Stakes and the $100,000 Maryland Juvenile Championship, both at Laurel.
HIGH CASCADE, a D. Wayne Lukas trainee, was second in the Golden Gate Derby (G3) last out. Lukas is hoping history will repeat itself. Last year, he flew High Yield in from Santa Anita to win the Fountain of Youth.
CITY ZIP won four graded stakes as a 2-year-old. This included the sweep of the juvenile series at Saratoga. CITY ZIP was gaining with every jump on Hutcheson Stakes winner YONAGUSKA, giving trainer Linda Rice confidence that this son of Carson City will appreciate the added distance. He is just one of 10 "dual qualifiers" for the Kentucky Derby. He was weighted within 10 pounds of Experimental Highweight Macho Uno (121 to 126). His pedigree profile falls within the desired parameters, with a dosage index under 4.00 (3.31) and a center of distribution under 1.25 (1.00).
John Ward Jr. has a trio of promising 3-year-olds. One, HOLIDAY THUNDER, is going in the Fountain of Youth. HOLIDAY THUNDER has been second or third in his last three starts, all graded stakes. Two other horses in training at Gulfstream are scheduled to run Saturday.
SONGANDAPRAYER, owned by former NBA star Bobby Hurley, finished a tiring fifth in the Holy Bull for trainer JohnDowd.
OUTOFTHEBOX won an allowance race here Jan. 3 by 4Â¾ lengths for trainer Bernie Flint. It was the third win in six outings for the colt.
Elliot Walden will ship in a newcomer to the scene in MEETYOUATTHEBRIG, who won the Grade 3 Iroquois at Churchill Downs in his last race as a 2-year-old.
Gulf Gurus Top Derby Prospects
1.MACHO UNO: The 126 highweight in the Experimental Free Handicap. Trainer Joe Orseno hints that an allowance race may serve as a prep for the Florida Derby for the winner of last years Breeders Cup Juvenile (G1).
2.AP VALENTINE: Hasnt started since bucking his shins in the Grade 1 Breeders Cup Juvenile at Churchill. The A.P. Indy colt had won the Grade 1 Champagne at Belmont Park; right on schedule with :59 handily work at Hialeah.
3.HOLIDAY THUNDER: See story
4.HEROS TRIBUTE: Another John Ward Jr. trainee who won a pair of races last year and was second in his last start, the Iroquois Stakes. Expected to make seasonal debut Saturday in an allowance non-winners of two other than race.
5.OUTOFTHEBOX: See story
6.WINDSOR CASTLE: Frank Alexander-trained colt won the Remsen Stakes in his first try around two turns and has been working steadily here for his 2001 debut.
7.CITY ZIP: See story
8.MONARCHOS: An impressive winner of two allowance races here this year. He ran the fastest time of the meet for seven furlongs (1:22-1/5) and was a 4Â¾ length victor at
1 1/16 miles.