Fountain Of Youth Stakes Caps Stellar Gulfstream Park Card on Saturday

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Ted Black

March 2nd, 2017

From very early Saturday morning with the Super Saturday card at Meydan Race Course in Dubai through the afternoon programs at Aqueduct and Gulfstream Park, novice and serious thoroughbred racing fans alike will have plenty of races to analyze as the Kentucky Derby and subsequent Triple Crown races loom ever nearer.

Saturday afternoon at Aqueduct, Maryland invader El Areeb (Trevor McCarthy) will seek his third straight graded stakes score over the inner track when he goes postward as the odds-on choice in the Gotham Stakes, the Big Apple's last local prep for the Wood Memorial on the main track next month. El Areeb has already won both the Jerome and Withers over the inner track and he is virtually one more win over the inner track away from basically securing enough points to earn a spot in the starting gate at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May.

Later that afternoon, Gulfstream Park will host the Grade II, $400,000 Fountain Of Youth Stakes which features another Maryland-based colt looking to punch his ticket to the Derby. Irish War Cry has won all three of his starts for trainer Graham Motion, who already boasts a Derby score with Animal Kingdom, including the recent Grade II Holy Bull Stakes over the Gulfstream strip in which he led throughout and held safe Gunnevera and pulled clear of two-year-old champion Classic Empire, the Breeders Cup Juvenile hero.

Irish War Cry looms the solid favorite in the Fountain Of Youth, a stepping stone to the Florida Derby next month, but he may not be a mortal lock. Gunnevera was second in the Holy Bull and previously scored in the Delta Jockpot and the Saratoga Special. Beasley exits a tough allowance race in which he was second to the promising Battalion Runner. Practical Joke makes his sophomore debut after running third in the Breeders Cup Juvenile and having previously scored in the Grade I Champagne. Three Rules was second in the Grade II Swale in his sophomore bow after running sixth in the Breeders Cup Juvenile. Made You Look was a troubled third as the 1-2 choice in the Kitten's Joy on the GP turf, but he also makes his dirt debut here. Takaful was seventh as the even-money choice in the Jerome, while Lookin For Eight galloped home three lengths clear against maiden special weight foes here after running second to Batallion Runner in his career debut.
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The two prior races on the card will highlight older grass runners. In the Grade II Mac Diarmida, Grade I winners Wake Forest and Twilight Eclipse will look to rekindle past glory, while Taghleeb arrives off consecutive wins over the course including the Grade III McKnight. One race earlier in the Grade III Canadian Turf, defending champion Heart To Heart makes his 2017 debut against Maryland-bred champion Giant Run, who won the Tropical Park Derby last out, and Interpol, hero of the Grade I Northern Dancer at Woodbine last fall.

Three races earlier pay close attention to a one-turn maiden special weight event for three-year-old colts. Granted, it may be too late for any of these sophomores to impact any of the Triple Crown races, but five first-timers are nominated to the series. Myakka River, Time To Travel, Texican, Timeline and Fayeq all arrive with solid workouts and they will make their career debuts in a salty maiden special weight event that could propel one or two of them into stardom this summer or fall.

Two races earlier in the $100,000 Sand Point Stakes on the grass, Grade I winners Celestine and Catch A Glimpse both make their seasonal debut. One race earlier in the Grade III Fred Hooper at one mile on the main track, Bird Song returns following a good second-place effort in the Hal's Hope, while War Story was fifth in the inaugural $12 million Pegasus World Cup and Greenpointcrusader makes his second start for trainer Todd Pletcher having won an allowance here last out. He captured the Grade I Champagne at age two in 2015 and was the beaten favorite in the Breeders Cup Juvenile.

Both the first and third races are also interesting events for three-year-olds and could be used as measuring sticks for the Fountain Of Youth. The opener is a one-mile and one-eighth allowance for three-year-olds that includes Triple Crown nominees Always Dreaming and Unbridled Holiday. Then two races later the sophomores will clash in a one-mile and one-sixteenth event where Blind Ambition, a $400,000 yearling purchase, will seek to rebound from a fourth-place finish as the 2-1 choice in his career debut, while both Prince Tito and Eastport loom serious contenders.