They have been running Kentucky Derby prep races since the last few months of last year, but Saturday is the day it starts to get serious with the running of the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park.
The race, the 14th on a massive Gulfstream card and scheduled for a 3:09 p.m. PDT post time, features the 3-year-old debut of Good Magic, the champion 2-year-old.
Last seen, Good Magic (7-5) – out of the Chad Brown barn – was rolling to the win in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, assuming the favorites roll for the Derby. Although the horse has been off since early November, there are a series of real good works and Brown’s horse run well coming off a rest. My concerns are two-fold here: First, the horse has one win in three starts and scored in the Juvenile at 11-1. Is he that good or did he just have a big day at the BC? Second, he doesn’t need to win this race. In fact, he’s realistically already in the Derby. While the connections say they are running the horse to win, there is cause for pause about this being a case where they are just trying to get a race in and at 7-5, that seems mighty low odds to risk much here.
Mark Henning sends out Strike Power (4-1) as the second choice in the field. The winner of both his starts, the last coming in the Grade III Swale over the track at Gulfstream, there is a lot to like here at what figures to be a decent price.
Free Drop Billy (9-2) is one three horses entered for Dale Romans. Free Drop Billy was a horrible ninth, losing by almost 30 lengths in the Juvenile, but did rebound with a second-place finish in the Holy Bull, running behind an impressive Audible that day at Gulfstream. This will be the seventh start for Free Drop Billy, tied for the most of any in the race.
The horse I like here is Marconi (8-1). The $2 million horse for Todd Pletcher was third in the Withers at Aqueduct in his last start, running being Avery Island and Firenze Fire. It was his first start in all almost two months and Pletcher excels are second starts off a break. There appears to be plenty of speed in the field and Marconi will come flying late at a price, although I am thinking he goes off around 4-1.
If you want to take a flyer on a horse that figures to be at least 20-1, look at He Takes Charge (20-1), a Mark Casse runner. His only win in five starts came in his last race, a maiden allowance race over the Gulfstream track. He’s another horse that could be full of late run and breaking from the rail allows the connections to take him back out of the gate, saving ground with minimal effort.
My pick: I am going to play Marconi on the win end and then put him together with Good Magic in an exacta box. Going a little deeper, let’s throw in Free Drop Billy with the other two in a trifecta box.
Other races at Gulfstream
There are a pair of races on the undercard that may be of interest for potential Derby runners. Horses that are big in either of these two could surface for the Florida Derby – or one of the other East Coast preps in April.
The 6th race is the Grade III Palm Beach on the turf. Speed Franco (9-5) has won three of four starts and is coming off a graded win on the grass at Gulfstream. Therapist (5-2) has won all three starts, including a pair of stakes races for trainer Christophe Clement.
Maraud (3-1) rounds out the top choices and hails from the Pletcher barn. Two wins and two third in four starts make up Maraud’s career as the horse is coming off a win in an optional claimer.
The 11th race is a MSW and could be very interesting to watch how the top runners shake out moving forward. Personal Time (9-5) is the heavy favorite and is coming off a second-place finish in his last start.
I will take a long look at C C Rider (12-1), a first-time starter for Michael Matz. I like the work tab and look forward to the $200,000 horse making his debut.
By Dennis Miller