Draws Post 6 Under Jose Ortiz
e Five Racing Thoroughbreds and Stonestreet Stables’ Good Magic (pictured winning the Breeders' Cup Juvenile) is scheduled to step onto the Road to the Triple Crown Saturday at Gulfstream Park, where the Chad Brown-trained colt will headline the $400,000 Xpressbet.com Fountain of Youth.
A key prep for the March 31 $1 million Xpressbet.com Florida Derby at Gulfstream, the Fountain of Youth tops a 14-race program (11:30 a.m. first-race post time) that will feature nine stakes, including eight graded stakes, worth $1.5 million.
The 2017 juvenile champion and early 2018 Kentucky Derby (G1) favorite is set to launch his 3-year-old campaign against nine rivals in the 1 1/16-mile Fountain of Youth.
“The year is filled with promise. The horse, knock on wood, is very healthy. His battery is recharged. He’s a fresh horse,” Brown said. “We’re excited to get his 3-year-old year kicked off and hopefully one filled with success and no interruptions.”
Good Magic concluded a three-race 2-year-old campaign with a triumph in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Del Mar Nov. 4, surging through the stretch to win going away by 4 ¼ lengths. The son of Curlin won the first race of his career in the Juvenile, but the manner in which he soundly defeated Solomini and favored Bolt d’Oro was enough to walk away with the Eclipse Award for outstanding 2-year-old male.
Purchased for $1 million at the 2016 Keeneland September sale, Good Magic debuted at Saratoga Aug. 26, finishing second by a length to Todd Pletcher-trained Hazit. Hardly discouraged by the losing performance as the 3-5 favorite, Brown entered him in the Oct. 7 Champagne at Belmont Park, where he lost valuable ground throughout the one-turn mile to finish second a half-length behind multiple stakes-winner Firenze Fire after taking the lead in mid-stretch.
Good Magic broke through with an impressive performance in his first race around two-turns in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, earning a short vacation before returning to the worktab at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream’s satellite training facility in Palm Beach County, in January.
“He’s been working well. The little time off did him well. He’s filled out some; he’s grown some. The type of things you want to see Age 2 to 3 in physical development he’s doing,” Brown said. “We’re excited to get his 3-year-old campaign kicked off.”
The 1 1/16-mile Fountain of Youth has been the target for Good Magic’s return all winter.
“There’s no place better to stretch him out two turns. You’ve got the short stretch and you’ve got Gulfstream Park, where he’s already proven he runs well over the surface,” Brown said.
Jose Ortiz has the return mount.
Courtlandt Farms’ Strike Power is scheduled to put his undefeated record on the line against Good Magic and eight other 3-year-olds in the Fountain of Youth. The Mark Hennig-trained colt has won his only two starts, both at Gulfstream Park, by a combined 10 3/4 lengths.
The son of Speightstown, who was purchased for $300,000 at the 2016 Keeneland September sale, produced a spectacular debut performance Dec. 23, breaking sharply from his rail post position to dominate his maiden rivals, including favored next-out winner Thunder’s Honor, with a front-running eight-length victory. After generating a rare first-out 100-plus Beyer Speed Figure, Strike Power made a successful leap to graded-stakes company, winning the Feb. 3 Swale Stakes by 2 3/4 lengths.
“Good Magic is a proven champion and [Strike Power] is giving away an experience edge to basically everyone again, as he did in the Swale. That’s a concern always. Horses get better with experience, but we need to find out if we’re heading on that road,” Hennig said. “It’s not even necessarily a win as getting a great effort around two turns that we’re looking for to continue forward.”
Luis Saez is scheduled to return to the saddle for the Fountain of Youth.
Trainer Dale Romans entered a trio of 3-year-olds in the Fountain of Youth, including Albaugh Family Stables’ Free Drop Billy, who finished second in the $350,000 Holy Bull at Gulfstream Feb. 3. The son of Union Rags made a strong bid on the turn into the homestretch before finishing three lengths behind Pletcher-trained Audible in the one-turn mile Holy Bull.
Free Drop Billy had demonstrated immense talent during his 2017 campaign, in which he won at first asking before finishing second in the Sanford and Hopeful at Saratoga and winning the 1 1/16-mile Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland. His 2-year-old season concluded on a sour note when he finished a distant ninth behind Good Magic in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile for which Romans subsequently found no excuse.
“The biggest thing about his (Holy Bull) performance is that it shows the race in California was just a fluke and he came back to his old form. You don’t know for sure until you run a horse. I was very pleased with his race. It was a really fast-run race according to all the numbers you look at. His numbers actually moved forward to an all-time top,” Romans said. “He trained so well before the race. He trained so well up to the Breeders’ Cup too, so we didn’t know what we have. He stepped up and showed us that something was wrong that day that we probably will never know.”
Robby Albarado is named to ride Free Drop Billy, a $200,000 purchase at the 2016 Keeneland September sale.
Romans is also set to saddle Robert Baron’s Promised Fulfilled and Team Valor International and Gemstone Stables’ Storm Runner for the Fountain of Youth. Promises Fulfilled, a son of Shackleford, is slated to make his 2018 debut after concluding his juvenile season with a third-place finish in the Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs. Storm Runner is a recent optional claiming allowance winner at Gulfstream.
Irad Ortiz Jr. has the mount aboard Promises Fulfilled, while Joel Rosario has been named to ride Storm Runner, a $5,000 purchase at the 2016 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Fall sale.
Marconi, a half-brother to 2013 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Mucho Macho Man, enters the Fountain of Youth off a third-place finish behind Avery Island and Firenze Fire in the Feb. 3 Withers at Aqueduct. Owned by Bridlewood Farm, Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith and Mrs. John Magnier, the son of Tapit previously broke his maiden in his second career start in a 1 1/8-mile race on Dec. 15.
“A mile and a sixteenth might be a little short for him but the race looks like it should have some pace,” said Pletcher, whose trainee was bought for $2 million at the 2016 Keeneland September sale.
Javier Castellano, who was aboard for Marconi’s maiden-breaking victory two starts back, has the mount.
Gotta Go, who finished second behind Strike Power in the Swale; He Takes Charge, an impressive maiden winner at 1 1/16 miles for trainer Mark Casse last time out; Peppered, a Grade 3 stakes-placed colt in Canada last year; and Machismo, a maiden winner at Gulfstream by 11 ½ lengths Feb. 3; round out the field.
1 He Takes Charge (20-1, T Gaffalione); 2 Free Drop Billy (9-2, R Albarado); 3 Peppered (30-1, N Juarez); 4 Strike Power (4-1, L Saez); 5 Storm Runner (15-1, J Rosario); 6 Good Magic (7-5, J Ortiz); 7 Gotta Go (10-1, C Landeros); 8 Marconi (8-1, J Castellano); 9 Machismo (15-1, A Jimenez); 10 Promises Fulfilled (20-1, I Ortiz Jr.)
Unedited Gulfstream Park release with additional content by Dick Downey
Photo by Melanie E. Martines