Mucciolo’s Sophomore Spotlight Recap: Fountain of Youth, Gotham & John Battaglia Memorial
Fountain of Youth (G2):
Peacock Racing Stables’ GUNNEVARA was arguably the most impressive winner of the early prep season with a powerful last-to-first move over what I thought was a pretty decent field at Gulfstream Park. Trained by Antonio Sano, the chestnut son of Dialed In easily went by the leader nearing midstretch and poured it on late as he recorded a career-best 102 BRIS Speed rating. While I took this one for granted in advance of the race, he proved to me that he is the real deal and that the improving Kentucky-bred could surely have more in him as the season progresses.
Two-time Grade 1 winner PRACTICAL JOKE rallied for a nice runner-up finish in his 2017 debut for Chad Brown, but I still am not sure how I feel about the talented son of Into Mischief. The $240,000 bay obviously deserves another chance to prove that he is Kentucky Derby material and the next race will be my deciding factor.
IRISH WAR CRY failed as the even-money favorite, tracking in second and coming up empty in the lane for conditioner Graham Motion in a very disappointing effort. The previously unbeaten son of Curlin had no apparent excuse for the clunker and this is not the time of year to go backwards. I will not give up on this graded winner for a barn that I respect as much as any, but Irish War Cry lost plenty of luster.
Gotham S. (G3):
I thought J BOYS ECHO might be a race or two away from proving that he belongs with some of the better in his crop, but the Dale Romans trainee looks to be well ahead of schedule after a convincing 3 ½-length romp in his second try of 2017. The son of Mineshaft, as we mentioned in our race preview, is bred to run all day from a barn that has been on this path quite a bit in recent years and I like this horse a good deal. Bay colt registered a lofty 104 BRIS Speed figure under Robby Albarado, taking a significant step forward in his fifth career start while readily took over against overmatched rivals, and we will be hearing a lot more from this horse between now and May in my opinion.
CLOUD COMPUTING was tons second best finishing more than seven lengths clear of his nearest foe and has earned the right to take the next step on the Triple Crown Trail. The Chad Brown pupil has just a pair of lifetime starts and after racing close to a solid pace, he fought gamely through the stretch even though he was never getting to the winner. I can’t see him being a serious contender at the 1 ¼-mile Kentucky Derby distance, but Cloud Computing has established himself as a fine prospect for the rest of the season.
EL AREEB, the 2-5 race favorite, never got a break while leading soon after the start and came up empty in the lane after rolling home to facile wins in four straight. I always thought the Cathal Lynch trainee may have his limitations and while he is obviously still a very good horse, El Areeb gets knocked down quite a bit after this 11-length defeat.
John Battaglia Memorial S:
Ken McPeek’s IT’S YOUR NICKEL was the only runner I mentioned in this test at Turfway Park and made me look good in a resounding 6 ½-length victory over the synthetic strip. He made for a nice weekend for sire Dialed In and I will keep him in the conversation as a horse with a lot of room for improvement. Dark bay colt posted a modest 86 BRIS Speed figure in his stakes debut and must get a lot faster to run with the better of his generation, but It’sd Your Nickel does own a nice turn of foot with a pedigree that hints that he will improve with distance.