Meet the Contenders: $400,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park

The Florida Derby path deepens Saturday with the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park. See which contenders for this year’s Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes may emerge in this tradition-rich event that dates back to 1945. It’s the anchor to a 14-race 1/ST Racing Tour stop loaded with 8 additional undercard stakes.

1/ST BET and Xpressbet players can take part in the $25,000 Exacta-Thon for Gulfstream Park on Saturday. Hit an exacta in at least 6 races on the 14-race card to collect your winnings and a share of $25,000 in additional money with other players on the platforms.

Let’s meet the contenders for the 1-1/16 miles Fountain of Youth Stakes (Race 14):

#1-SPEAKY EASY: Out-gunned fellow Fountain of Youth entrant Victory Avenue in a Jan. 27 maiden special weight debut on the Pegasus World Cup undercard and turned heads in the process. Son of Florida Derby winner Constitution, who notably posted his signature score in his first stakes bid and just his third lifetime start also for Speak Easy’s trainer, Todd Pletcher. Pletcher won this race a year ago with Forte and boasts a record 4 FoY victories all-time. Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. piloted Forte here last season and also won the 2018 FoY with Promises Fulfilled. He is cross-entered in a Friday allowance at Gulfstream and could opt for that spot.

#2-LE DOM BRO: Swale Stakes runner-up behind fellow Fountain of Youth returnee Frankie’s Empire, completing a 150-1 exacta return. Sire Mucho Macho Man, the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, twice won the Sunshine Millions Classic over the Gulfstream strip. Former Antonio Sano trainee seeks his first win since moving to the barn of Eniel Cordero. Jockey Edwin Gonzales takes the mount as Irad Ortiz Jr. jumps off to pilot Speak Easy on Saturday.

#3-VICTORY AVENUE: Runner-up debut effort as the 3-2 favorite in a strong Jan. 27 maiden heat on the Pegasus World Cup undercard behind fellow Fountain of Youth returnee Speak Easy. From the same trainer, Gustavo Delgado, and many of the same owners as last year’s Kentucky Derby winner Mage, who finished fourth in this race in the lead-up. Maiden colt is by 2023 Hall of Fame inductee Arrogate, winner of the Travers, Breeders’ Cup Classic, Pegasus World Cup and Dubai World Cup, providing optimism for the stretch-out in distance.

#4-REAL MACHO: Rallying winner at 26-1 odds of a Feb. 3 allowance to punch his ticket to his first stakes test, defeating the much ballyhooed Born Noble in the process. This is a son of Mucho Macho Man, the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner and two-time winner of the Sunshine Millions Classic over the Gulfstream strip. Jockey Tyler Gaffalione seeks his first Fountain of Youth victory and looks to add to his Triple Crown trail hand after winning the Risen Star aboard Sierra Leone.

#5-DORNOCH: Full-brother Mage was a disappointing fourth in the 2023 Fountain of Youth, but got the big prize in May in winning Kentucky Derby 149. Saturday’s 2-1 morning line favorite, Dornoch is far more accomplished to this point than his older brother, winning the Grade 2 Remsen in determined style to cap 4 races as a juvenile. The Remsen already has produced the 2024 Jerome winner, the Risen Star winner and the Holy Bull second-place finisher. Jockey Luis Saez has found Fountain of Youth success twice, Wildcat Red (2014) and It’saknockout (2015).

#6-MERIT: Lightly raced son of the brilliant, but career-shortened Mastery, who retired 4-for-4 after his 2017 San Felipe Stakes win. Debuted a 10-1/4 length winner in November at Gulfstream and followed with a third-place finish in a Feb. 3 allowance. Could make his stakes debut Saturday as well as his first bid around two turns, but he’s also cross-entered in a local allowance race on Friday and could opt there. Trainer Saffie Joseph seeks his first Fountain of Youth score.

#7-FRANKIE’S EMPIRE: Rallying winner of the 7-furlong Swale Stakes seeks his first 2-turn score after unsuccessful attempts last year at Monmouth Park and Delaware Park. Trainer Michael Yates took over the controls from Susan Crowell following a private purchase prior to the Swale, where he pulled a 14-1 upset to snap an 0-3 mark in previous stakes bids. Son of 2016 champion 2-year-old Classic Empire, whose sophomore season including an Arkansas Derby win and Preakness runner-up.

#8-LOCKED: Beaten favorite when third in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita, this Todd Pletcher trainee got his Grade 1 score in the Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland the race prior. Gun Runner colt makes his 3-year-old debut and looks to follow last week’s Rebel winner Timberlake to the winner’s circle after his return from a fourth-place BC Juvenile effort. Jockey Jose Ortiz has been aboard in all 4 prior starts, and he’s won the Fountain of Youth 2 of the last 3 years (’21 Greatest Honour, ’22 Simplification). Pletcher won this race a year ago off the BC Juvenile layoff with Forte and boasts a record 4 FoY victories all-time.

#9-DANCING GROOM: Fifth-place finisher in the Holy Bull Stakes at 40-1 odds once again will be a big price as he seeks his first stakes victory. Son of Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Vino Rosso should improve as distances elongate, but will have to get into gear sooner with the sixteenth-pole finish line in play Saturday. Trainer Antonio Sano won the 2017 Fountain of Youth with Gunnevera (with Javier Castellano also aboard) and the 2022 edition with Simplification.

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