By Dick Downey
Photo by Gulfstream Park
Gulfstream Park has a reputation for playing to front speed, but too-swift early fractions in the Grade II Besilu Stable Fountain of Youth proved to be made to order for a late run by Orb.
After a clean break for all, Majestic Hussar and Luis Saez took the lead as many observers expected. They led the field up the backstretch and into the far turn with an initial quarter-mile of :23.11 followed by fast splits of :45.45 for the half-mile and 1:08.85 for six furlongs. Cerro was in closest pursuit up the back, followed by Sr. Quisqueyano, Violence and Elmutahid.
Meanwhile, Speak Logistics and Orb played it cool near the back of the nine-horse field. After a half-mile, they were within a half-length of each other, about eight lengths off the pace.
Violence, the post-time favorite at 3-5, edged closer to Majestic Hussar heading into the second turn. He was only three lengths off the lead after that fast half-mile and within a half-length after six furlongs. But the swift early fractions cost them. Violence and Javier Castellano got to the furlong marker with a 1 1/2-length lead, but Orb, ridden by John Velazquez, was coming at them and surged past to beat Violence by a half-length.
The time for the 1 1/16 mile was a solid 1:42.24. Speak Logistics also closed, but not as quickly as Orb, to finish third, beaten 7 1/4 lengths.
Behind those three were Majestic Hussar, He's Had Enough, Cerro, Sr. Quisqueyan, Joshua's Comprise and Elmutahid. Falling Sky and Sky Captain were scratched.
The Fountain of Youth was the first race of the Kentucky Derby Championship Series, carrying a total of 85 qualifying points for the Run for the Roses. Orb picked up 50 points, probably enough to get him into the Derby. Violence scored 20, while Speak Logistics got 10 and Majestic Hussar five.
At 5-1 odds, Orb paid $12.80 to win, $4.00 to place and $3.00 to show. Of the $400,000 purse, $240,000 goes to the winning owners, Stuart S. Janney and Phipps stable. They bred Orb in Kentucky.
The winner was getting six pounds from Violence. It was Orb's second race with Lasix.
Orb, a son of Malibu Moon out of the Unbridled mare Lady liberty, won his third straight race. He broke his maiden at Aqueduct on Nov. 24 in his fourth start. On Jan. 26, he won an allowance race going 1 1/8 mile at Gulfstream Park.
Ironically, several times before the race, McGaughey publicly said he would rather go a longer distance and would prefer running in in another allowance race.
Next-race plans will be discussed. But if he stays put, Orb could see Itsyluckyday and Shanghai Bobby in the Grade I Besilu Stable Florida Derby on March 30.
Trainer Shug McGaughey: "I was watching on the television, so I couldn't see the fractions, but when they came into the picture I said to myself, 'If they slow down, he's going to catch them.' Of course, Violence kept going a bit, but I still thought we had him. When he made the lead, he did the same thing he did in the allowance race here, pulling himself up a bit. But that's just being young. The strides he has made this winter are just absolutely incredible...I think what happened is when Orb made the lead, he started looking around a bit. But I think Violence made him that much more competitive. I hope that's what it was.
"I don't know what his next outing will be, but we'll see and talk to the Phipps and Stuart Janney and see what they want to do and go from there."
Asked if he was worried about the Kentucky Derby: "I've been worried about it since I started rubbing horses in 1972."
"John Velazquez said everything went great. I was concerned about the one post and the mile and sixteenth. I would have liked it to have been 1 1/8 but it wasn't. So there was nothing we could do but it worked out."
John Velazquez: “There was a lot of speed, and I was actually able to get right where I wanted to be pretty early. I was told the horse likes to be on the outside, and by the time we got on the backside, I was able to switch him out, and he was going along nice and smooth. I actually had to ride him pretty hard from the half-mile to the quarter pole to keep position, and I hoped it wouldn’t take anything out of him for the stretch but it actually worked out great, so I was right where I wanted to be.”
Todd Pletcher, trainer of Violence: “We ended up being pretty close to a hot pace, and as he tends to do, when he made the lead, he kind of idles a little bit. His last race he did kind of the same thing, where he waited on horses. You could see Orb coming with that long, sustained run, and I think Violence was able to dig in pretty well actually in the stretch, and we just came out on the short end. We were giving some weight, and it looks like Orb has really improved with Lasix. But overall, I think it was a good effort.”
Javier Castellano, aboard Violence: "I'm not disappointed. He ran a great race. I give the winner credit. He responded well every time I asked him to move. He ran huge off the layoff, and I think this puts him in a great place."
Joel Rosario, asked if he had any trouble aboard Speak Logistics: "No, I really didn't have any problems."
Trainer Eddie Plesa Jr., on hearing question posed to Rosario: "Yeah, he had trouble out there -- the one and the three."