Sophomores on display on Saturday afternoon

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Ted Black

March 2nd, 2019

Today might have only been the first Saturday in March, but there were ample talented sophomores of both genders at Gulfstream Park in sunny, warm southern Florida earlier today that owners, trainers and fans looking ahead to the first Friday and Saturday in May.

Saturday's feature at Gulfstream Park was the Grade II, $400,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes for three-year-old colts and geldings seeking Derby glory in nine weeks.

Soon after the gates opened in the Fountain of Youth, favored Hidden Scroll gained command through the clubhouse turn but he was unable to get a breather and set wicked fractions of 22.4 and 45.3 for the first two calls and still owned a modest lead by three-quarters in 1:10.2. But the Bill Mott trainee eventually paid the toll for settling rapid split and faded to fourth.

While Hidden Scroll had won impressively in the slop at first asking, Code Of Honor had little to offer in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes in his sophomore debut. But Saturday afternoon he rallied from midpack as an overlooked 9-1 shot for a two-length score over Bourbon War in 1:43.85 for the two-turn distance. A sophomore son of Noble Mission trained by Shug McGaughey, Code Of Honor notched his first win in two starts this year and now owns two wins and over $390,000 banked from four career tries.

Code Of Honor and Bourbon War will likely return to Gulfstream Park for the Grade I, $750,000 Florida Derby on March 30 and don't be surprised if Hidden Scroll seeks to atone for his Fountain of Youth performance in that event.

One race earlier in the Grade II, $200,000 Davona Dale Stakes for three-year-old fillies, Jeltrin rallied from midpack to overhaul Cookie Dough in the final yards for a 54-1 shocker, while Breeders Cup Juvenile Filly and Eclipse champion two-year-old filly Jaywalk failed to fire her best shot and faded to fourth as the 1-5 favorite in a genuinely disappointing sophomore debut.

A sophomore daughter of Tapizar out of a Successful Appeal mare trained by Alexis Delgdo, Jeltrin notched her first win in three starts this year and now boasts two wins and over $150,000 banked from six career outings. Cookie Dough, the Florida-bred champion, raced gamely in defeat, but Jaywalk had little to offer in her sophomore debut despite sitting just off the leaders through the early stages.

Several races earlier in a two-turn maiden special weight event for three-year-old colts and geldings, Identifier led throughout for a length victory as a 9-2 shot. Trained by Jorge Navarro, Identifier ended his bridesmaid status by notching his first win in five tries after running second three times in his previous four outings. The sophomore son of Creative Cause out of a Shakespeare mare covered the one-mile and one-sixteenth in a moderate 1:44.94 and likely will avoid the Derby trail.

Then several races earlier in the Grade III, $100,000 Gulfstream Park Sprint Stakes, Recruiting Ready overcame a slow break from the rail, bided his time from third down the backside, angled off the fence to join Quixote midway on the far turn, collared that one at the head of the lane and edged clear to a three-length score in 1:09.53. A five-year-old Algorithms stallion trained by Stanley Hough for owner Sagamore Farm, Recruiting Ready posted his first win in two starts this year and now sports a solid 7-3-4 slate and earnings of $580,000 from 18 career tries.

That same afternoon at Oaklawn Park, Mitole proved fresh and fit from a nine-month layoff dating back to a sharp score in the Chick Lang Stakes at Pimlico on Preakness Day when he easily lived up to his billing as the 2-5 favorite in a six-furlong allowance dash. Unpressed at any stage of the event, Mitole drew clear to a five-length score in 1:08.94 under wraps and the four-year-old son of Eskendreya has won four straight races and five of eight outings overall for trainer Steve Asmussen and looms a major player in the sprint division this season.