Mucciolo’s Sophomore Spotlight: Fountain of Youth, Gotham & Battaglia Preview

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March 2nd, 2017

Fountain of Youth (G2):

The $400,000 race appears to go through unbeaten IRISH WAR CRY and conditioner Graham Motion. An easy winner of the Holy Bull (G3) last time out, son of Curlin is equipped with a ton of speed and stamina and I simply don’t see any in this field making up enough lengths to challenge the chestnut colt in the latter stages as he aims to stay unbeaten in his fourth career tilt. The New Jersey-bred sophomore drew a nice post and should further cement his status as a leading Kentucky Derby contender beneath Joel Rosario.

Multiple graded winner MADE YOU LOOK has a lot of class to him and is the wildcard in the field after racing exclusively on the turf. The Todd Pletcher trainee has been consistently good to this point and his most recent work, a :47 2/5 bullet drill at Palm Beach Downs, indicates to me that he will be ready to roll in his dirt bow. Longtime go-to pilot John Velazquez picking up the mount is another positive in my mind.

PRACTICAL JOKE will make his seasonal debut for conditioner Chad Brown and this will be an important race to see how the dual Grade-1 victor has developed at age 3. Son of Into Mischief had a fine juvenile campaign capped by a good third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) and $240,000 yearling is training like a runner with several bullet breezes leading into this big effort. The colt will only have two prep races in advance of the first leg of the Triple Crown and I prefer to sit on my hands and watch him here before making a definitive judgment on where to classify the accomplished colt.

THREE RULES obviously has a lot of ability and an affinity for this main strip with a 5-for-6 mark at Gulfstream Park, and he enters off of a sharp second in the Swale (G2). Dark bay son of Gone Astray was dusted when tested for class in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and while I have a lot of respect for him in general, he will have to prove to me that he is more than just a splendid Florida-bred.

Gotham S. (G3):

The streaking EL AREEB will face nine foes in Saturday’s feature at Aqueduct, the $300,000 Gotham S. (G3). Trained by Cathal Lynch, the gray son of Exchange Rate has been on a tear with four easy wins in succession, including a pair of graded tallies at Aqueduct this winter, but he could get a challenge from a cast of new shooters in this fray. Kentucky-bred colt has learned to settle some after being a front-runner for most of his lifetime, with a 119 BRIS Late Pace number last time out indicating he is capable of running from anywhere, and the colt shows a pair of swift morning drills in preparation. Regular rider Trevor McCarthy will be in the pipes and it’s impossible to go against El Areeb with confidence.

The outside trio intrigues me some, with all appearing capable of making at least a minor impact in this graded event. Trainer Doug O’Neill ships in recent California Derby hero SO CONFLATED, who has yet to run a bad race from a trio of lifetime tries and will be of good value today. The son of Eskendereya handled his two-turn test in good fashion last time and I don’t think that we have seen the best of him yet. Florida-bred gray may not have as high of a ceiling as others, but he did face a pair of strong maiden fields at Santa Anita prior to his black-type tally and two-time Kentucky Derby Doug O’Neill knows how to get a sophomore ready for his best at this time of year. I like seeing regular rider Mario Gutierrez come along to guide the ridgling.

CLOUD COMPUTING is being asked a lot of going from a maiden sprint win to a two-turn stakes test in just his second career performance, but I never doubt trainer Chad Brown and will give the son of Maclean’s Music a chance to make a run here. While it is difficult to think of the dark bay as a Kentucky Derby type at this stage of his development, he did overcome trouble in a well-bet debut and is out of a fine mare who gives the colt a lot of stamina from a pedigree perspective. Kentucky-bred is worth a look for the top 3 at expected nice odds.

Todd Pletcher’s ACTION EVERYDAY must break from a tricky outermost post but is unblemished from a pair of races at Tampa Bay Downs and adding blinkers. $400,000 son of The Factor will have to get faster to compete with the likes of El Areeb, but he’s still lightly-raced and shows a trio of stout half-mile morning drills in advance. Pletcher’s three-year-olds seem to be thriving in recent weeks and the 1 1/6-mile trip should be favorable for Action Everyday, who is bred to be more of a miler type. He could be ready to take a big leap forward the third time out with Rajiv Maragh inheriting the mount.

J BOYS ECHO gets the rail after drawing outside in his seasonal debut, a third in the Withers S. (G3), and Dale Romans trainee is eligible to improve for sure in this test. Bay son of Mineshaft is an improving sort with ability and a pedigree to run all day, and I think he could be the best long-term prospect in the field if he can get a bit faster. $485,000 yearling purchase will be saving ground and running from off the pace beneath Robby Albarado and bay colt could be moving best of all inside the final furlong.

John Battaglia Memorial S:

Ken McPeek’s IT’S YOUR NICKEL is the lone runner I have any interest in as a Triple Crown race prospect in the Turfway Park feature Saturday, but he needs to run a big one to stay on my radar. The dark bay son of Dialed In was a sharp closing turf winner at Saratoga in his two-year-old finale and turned in a nice seasonal debut at Fair Grounds last time, being elevated to first in a one-mile dirt allowance. Kentucky-bred has the right pedigree to progress and the barn has done some good things in prep races in recent years. His recent bullet work is a positive and he’ll be one of the favorites for the April 1 Spiral (G2) on Polytrack if successful.