2015 Fountain of Youth & Davona Dale Stakes Preview

Juan Ponce de Leon searched through what is present-day Florida to find (as legend goes) the Fountain of Youth in the sixteenth century.  Picks and Ponderings has found that Fountain of Youth in the here and now.

Such fountain is located in Hallandale Beach, Florida at a racetrack.  Gulfstream Park once again is the basis of action, peeking yet again into the glamour group of three-year-olds.  Two races for sophomores, each with Grade Two stature, comprise this piece.  Derby-bound males clash in the Fountain of Youth while Oaks-bound fillies tangle in the Davona Dale.  (Note that this piece covers only these two races; it does not cover any other stakes.)

Horse Racing Radio Network (HRRN) will provide live audio, in a program to air from 4:30pm to 6:30 pm ET, of the Davona Dale and Fountain of Youth along with the G3 Canadian Turf on the Fountain of Youth Day undercard as well as Risen Star Stakes from Fair Grounds from the HRRN website, as well as on Sirius 117. Gulfstream Park's website offers a free video stream for all races examined in this piece, as well as the Gulfstream card in its entirety.

And don't forget it's also a big weekend in racing from many corners.  Locally, it's opening weekend of the Hawthorne Spring stand.  Across the Gulf Coast is Nicolle Neulist tackling the G2 Risen Star and G3 Rachel Alexandra, the New Orleans-based three-year-old counterparts to this program.  And there's the rescheduled G3 Southwest Stakes from Oaklawn Park on Sunday the 22nd, as the race originally set for Presidents' Day was postponed due to an ice storm.

Morning lines for these races, scheduled for Saturday February 21st, were not available at original publish time. All post times given below are those given by Equibase as these post times are purely an approximation and the track is known for running races after the advertised post time.

Updated on February 19th to include morning lines.

Gulfstream Park -- Race 8 -- G2 Davona Dale Stakes -- One Mile (one turn) on Dirt -- post time 4:00 PM ET

By Best Turn out the Tim Tam mare Royal Entrance, Davona Dale was a buzzsaw as a three-year-old filly in 1979.  In the early parts of the year she won the Bonnie Miss (now Gulfstream Oaks) and Fantasy Stakes.  Then she won the three filly complement races that were a day before the Triple Crown races (Kentucky Oaks, Black-Eyed Susan, Acorn) as well as the New York based (at the time) Triple Tiara of Acorn-Mother Goose-Coaching Club of America Oaks.  It made her champion filly of that year, and she was ambitiously tried in the Travers Stakes that summer where she checked in fourth.  Elected to the Hall of Fame for her merits, the race that bears her name is two prep races away from the Kentucky Oaks as the Gulfstream Oaks serves as the early-Spring bridge.  Contested from between seven to nine furlongs, the Davona Dale Stakes has yet to yield a Kentucky Oaks winner but has still produced quality females like Gulfstream West stakes honoree Wait A While (2006) and former Arlington stakes nameplate Lisa M. (2007).  Secret Status was third in this race but won the Kentucky Oaks in 2000.  This race has a purse of two hundred thousand dollars and a 50-20-10-5 point distribution to the top four finishers.

Sometimes, you wish you could do it all over again.  When picking the Forward Gal a month ago, this space was took ENCHANTRESS over LASSOFTHEMOHICANS, and knew something was afoul when the Pletcher trainee was dead on the board, losing to a Romans horse under the radar.  LASSOFTHEMOHICANS was second at 11-1 in the Forward Gal.  And with six runners from the Forward Gal (including the 1-2 finishers) coming back in this one-turn mile, you get something similar to that.  This space thinks LASSOFTHEMOHICANS can turn the tables on BIRDATTHEWIRE. LASSOFTHEMOHICANS got bumped at the start of the Forward Gal and perhaps the bump was the unsettling for this filly.  She was in mid-pack down the backstretch and picked off runners to hit the podium.  Stretching out to a one-turn mile, the distance she won at two back, is in play and I like the rider switch to Paco Lopez here: with LASSOFTHEMOHICANS drawn at the rail, expect her to vie with ESKENFORMONEY for early control, but LASSOFTHEMOHICANS has the better - on paper (and GP times can be funky) - interior splits.  I think Paco Lopez can be aggressive enough on LASSOFTHEMOHICANS to have her avoid the gate trouble from the Forward Gal but yet not get roped into a duel with ESKENFORMONEY or anyone else.  Checks in with a bullet work on Valentine's Day.  ESKENFORMONEY turned in a dazzling effort two back to win career start one at today's one-turn mile distance.  After spending time at two being a winless maiden, trainer Todd Pletcher put her away and brought her back over the same oval and distance of today's G2 Davona Dale: a one-turn mile at Gulfstream.  Then came the flashy effort.  There's a a first-level allowance win as well, also over the local strip.  Castellano/Pletcher are solid humans that get together on this one, and the speed figures are on the upswing.  Worth noting she won two back on the lead, but last time stalking - showing a tactical dimension. Draw a line through the last race for SKIPALUTE.  This one was involved in a bump at the start and took the worst of it, forced wide for most of the way and then eased to a DNF finish.  Likely, this one was protected from doing any more damage and the connections chalked this one up to a bad day at the office.  That last non-effort was also in the Forward Gal, and SKIPALUTE is among the six back here.  Though still a maiden, she chased around an eventual G2 Matron winner and the pro-tem leader of the division, Take Charge Brandi, in the G3 Delta Princess.  Neither of them are in the box.  SKIPALUTE also gets out of post eleven to something a bit more inside for this race.  You wonder if the confidence is shaken after these near misses, but SKIPALUTE can get on the podium with the chance to get a less eventful trip.




#5 SKIPALUTE (20/1)

Longshot: With a full field of fourteen pre-scratch and at least two runners who like being near the lead, there should be at worst an honest pace.  And with stretchout types DISTINTA and ENCHANTRESS there could be a hot pace. Perhaps #8 SILVERPOCKETSFULL (12/1) can do what BIRDATTHEWIRE did in the Forward Gal: take advantage of too hot to handle fractions.  SILVERPOCKETSFULL was second to ESKENFORMONEY last out at today's one turn mile distance and goes second off the layoff in the Davona Dale.  As a confirmed closer (three starts, never closer than seven lengths at first call), the pace targets to chase should be there.  She also switches to Julien Leparoux, who tends to bring out the best in timing a closer's rally.  And she's also bred deceptively well for today's one-turn mile: as Indian Charlie progeny tend to like one-turn miles and the dam was graded stakes placed three times in elongated sprints, though she was a stakes winner at a two-turn mile.  Quite a few plus points in play on a runner that could - in a deep renewal of the Davona Dale - easily fall through the wagering cracks.

Gulfstream Park -- Race 11 -- G2 Fountain of Youth Stakes -- One and one-sixteenth miles on Dirt -- post time 5:30 PM ET

Besilu Stables serves as the sponsor of this race, which carries a purse of $400,000 and offers a Kentucky Derby point allotment of fifty points to the winner, twenty points to the runner-up, ten to the third-place finisher, and five to whoever is fourth.  First run in 1945, it settled into the mile and a sixteenth distance in the 1950s.  Given graded stature when grading of races first arrived in the 1970s, the Fountain of Youth Stakes is a late-February touchstone of the Derby Prep season.  The race stretched to a mile and an eighth with the advent of "new" Gulfstream and a nine furlong oval in 2005 that at the time didn't allow the carding of races at the current distance (the race even went to a one turn mile in 2009).  The race returned to the mile and a sixteenth distance in 2012. Functioning as the local feeder to the Florida Derby and two preparatory races from the Kentucky Derby, it's produced four horses who have won this race and then taken down two legs of the Triple Crown in Tim Tam (1958), Kauai King (1966), Spectacular Bid (1979) and Thunder Gulch (1995).  Since going back to the current distance, Union Rags in 2012 and Orb in 2013 have each taken down a leg of the Triple Crown after winning the Fountain of Youth.

A stylish winner a month ago at a one-turn mile, GORGEOUS BIRD didn't get zippy fractions when clearing the first-level allowance condition over this dirt surface and scoring by seven.  He did get them two back at Churchill to graduate going seven panels second time out.  Not being limited by pace makes GORGEOUS BIRD the play, as he goes two turns for the first time and projects to get what UPSTART got last time: a cozy trip two wide with the ability to move when needed, yet not be spiraled ridiculously wide.   Bred well for two turns and going second off the layoff, the Whitney-owned and Wilkes-trained GORGEOUS BIRD tuned up with a zippy work on the 13th of February and such a nice (with respect to the clock) work shows the starch isn't off.  Ascending speed figures and the riding services of Joel Rosario are in play here.  UPSTART won the Holy Bull with aplomb a month ago at today's mile and a sixteenth distance over the Gulfstream dirt.  UPSTART's win certainly looked good moving on the turn, but this space thinks the Holy Bull did more to demote FROSTED than it did to promote UPSTART.  Take nothing away from the bronze-medalist in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, and he too is going second off the layoff.  But UPSTART could have done too much too soon and is peaking now, as opposed to still having room to improve.  UPSTART is a logical contender in this field and a win would not surprise.  Yet this space thinks GORGEOUS BIRD has room to improve whereas UPSTART must maintain the solid form.   This space sides with upside.  ITSAKNOCKOUT is a Pletcher trainee, and Pletcher horses win in scads in these parts.  Bred well for two turns paternally, he stretches out to them for the first time after chasing quick one-turn-mile sprints and pulling away in the lane.  The pace won't be as quick this time around, but the fractions were more sensible when he won at first asking at the end of his two-year-old campaign. Luis Saez takes the call for this one in Starlight Stable colors that is unseen since the fourth of January.  In discussing UPSTART before, a mention was made to FROSTED.  This space won't sugar-coat the feeelings: he's a toss.  Bad behaviors surfaced in the Holy Bull that might be the undoing of FROSTED, and he had the cozy gate one inside trip.  Now he moves to the outside, not the place to be going eight and a half panels at Gulfstream.



#7 UPSTART (8/5)


Longshot: Mile and a sixteenth races at Gulfstream can be kind to inside-drawn horses and front speed.  So how about a horse with both an inside draw and front speed? #1 JUAN AND BINA (20/1) cracked the super in the Holy Bull at 82-1 odds last time and this runner could scramble the exotics again.  After three races chasing wide, JUAN AND BINA finally draws a cozy inside spot, and he was on the engine in one mile races - at two turns - over across town at Gulfstream Park West.  Worth noting he won from gate ten going a two-turn mile at first asking.  A rider switch to Javier Castellano might be the ticket: think Lezcano tried to rate this horse last time and ended up in an internal struggle that was frustrating to JUAN AND BINA.  Think Castellano puts this one on the engine and tries to take the field as far as he can go.  The lead won't be a kind place with stretchout types like ITSAKNOCKOUT and fellow speed types like BLUEGRASS SINGER.  But Gulfstream can get speed favoring and on a configuration could promote inside/speed, here's a runner that fits that style.

All videos courtesy of Youtube.


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