C. Zee's Shining Debut

Profile Picture: Molly Jo Rosen

Molly Jo Rosen

February 22nd, 2014

by John DaSilva

The road to the Kentucky Derby steps up a notch this weekend with two major preps. At Gulfstream Park the 71st running of the Grade 2, $400,000, Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth will be run at 1 1/16 miles. At the Fair Grounds, the 42nd running of the Grade 2, $400,000, Risen Star Stakes will be run at 1 1/16 miles.

A field of 13 was entered in the Fountain of Youth. The 3-1 morning line favorite is Commissioner. The Todd Pletcher trainee comes off a neck victory going 1 1/8 miles over Top Billing, who is the 7-2 second choice in this race. Commissioner is extremely well bred and has never run shorter than the mile in his career. He has the look of a plodder without much early speed. He drew the rail and with his running style might get caught in traffic. John Velazquez regains the mount.

Top Billing was very impressive winning optional claiming race in January 25 as the favorite at this distance. He was last early but then made a strong wide move to gain the lead and drew off to win by 2 3/4 lengths. That was a field of seven that day but now is competing the field of 13. Plus with the shortened stretch for the mile and 1/16 race, Top Billing would have to be much the best to get up in time to win this race.

There is plenty of early and tactical speed in this race. An intriguing prospect is C. Zee from the Stanley Gold barn. He has finished second in stakes in both starts since breaking his maiden. He makes his route debut here and while he might not be a major prospect to in the Kentucky Derby, he definitely has the ability to win this race.

On the undercard is intriguing allowance race for three year olds going a distance of 1 1/16 miles. The 5-2 morning line favorite is Constitution. Also trained by Todd Pletcher, he broke his maiden going 7 furlongs on January 11 at Gulfstream. Pletcher also sends out Matterhorn, who broke his maiden in his career debut, going a mile at Aqueduct November 16. Tonalist was an impressive maiden winner going longer in for Christophe Clement when adding blinkers and Lasix on January 18. He comes into this race with a bullet work and must be respected. Wicked Strong lost his race in the paddock and showed nothing in the Grade 2 Holy Bull Stakes. He comes into this race with a bullet work and if he behaves prior to the race, he could be a factor here.

Three year old fillies that will also run at Gulfstream on Saturday with the 30th running of the Grade 2, $200,000, the  Davona Dale Stakes. The race looks to be a battle between the two Todd Pletcher trainees, Onlyforyou and Stopchargingmaria. The undefeated Onlyforyou comes off an impressive victory in the Grade 2, Forward Gal Stakes. Ridden by her regular jockey Javier Castellano, she makes her route debut and will probably be favored again, as she was for her previous three career starts. Stopchargingmaria makes her first start since winning the Grade 2, Demoiselle Stakes at Aqueduct in November going longer. She has been working well for this spot and is reunited the John Velazquez rode her in her career debut at maiden victory.

At the Fair Grounds overflow field of 16 was entered in the Risen Star. But there has already been a scratch in the race as Bond Holder did not ship well from Southern California and will now be pointed to the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita on March 8.

The 5-2 morning line favorite is Vicar's in Trouble. The Mike Maker trainee comes off an impressive victory in the Grade 3, Lecomte Stakes when making his route and stakes debut while making his first start off his maiden victory. He has good tactical speed and will probably have to be used early by jockey Rosie Napravnik since he is breaking from post position 13.

His main competition should come from two shippers, Hoppertunity from Santa Anita for Bob Baffert and Intense Holiday from Gulfstream for Todd Pletcher. Hoppertunity was an impressive maiden winner at a mile last time out. He has good tactical speed and Baffert has an excellent record shipping out-of-state for three-year-old stakes. Intense Holiday finished well to be third to Cairo Prince in the Grade 2 Holy Bull. With the plethora of three year olds in his stable, Pletcher has to ship to give his horses the best opportunity to earn Kentucky Derby points. Mike Smith ships from California for the mount.

On the undercard at the Fair Grounds is the Grade 3, $200,000, Rachel Alexandra Stakes. Even though Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Ria Antonia is making her seasonal debut, the morning line favorite is the Bob Baffert trained Streaming. She comes off a second place finish as the favorite in the grade 1 Las Virgenes Stakes on February 1. She has good tactical speed and has already won at this distance, winning the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet in December. Ria Antonia comes in with a bullet work but still has to earn the respect from people as many think her victory in the Breeders Cup was a fluke. She returns on Lasix and will be ridden for the first time by Joe Talamo.