March also brings a bit of madness to the 2017 Kentucky Derby Trail with a number of big-money stakes races on tap over the next four weekends. This Saturday at Gulfstream Park outside Miami starts things off in a big way with the running of the $400,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes.
The 2017 Fountain of Youth Stakes is shaping up to be one of the best fields of 3-year olds we have seen this year. Right now there are 10 horses listed as probable for Saturday’s main event, and I have done my best to narrow things down to the three entries who come together the best to form a winning trifecta play. The Grade 2 stakes race at Gulfstream Park has a total prize purse of $400,000. It will be contested on a dirt track over a distance of 1 1/16 miles.
I am riding the biggest winner in the field in a major graded stakes race as a 3-year old. New Jersey-bred colt Irish War Cry grabbed everyone’s attention in early February with his stunning victory in the Grade 2 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream over the likes of Gunnevera and favorite Classic Empire at a distance of 1 1/16 miles.
Trained by H. Graham Motion, this makes Irish War Cry a perfect 3-for-3 in his young racing career. A pedigree of Curlin, he got things started with a victory in a Maiden Special Weight race at Laurel Park at a distance of six furlongs, and he capped off his juvenile campaign with a win in the ungraded Marylander Stakes at that same track on Dec. 31 at a distance of seven furlongs.
Practical Joke comes into this race the highest-ranked horse in the field (No. 61) by Horse Racing Nation and his current rating stands at 7.81. Trained by Chad Brown, this Kentucky-bred colt will be making his 3-year old debut after placing third in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita behind Classic Empire and Not This Time. This broke a string of three straight victories as a 2-year old that included wins in the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga over a distance of seven furlongs and the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes at Belmont on Oct. 8 at a distance of a mile. Practical Joke remains near the top of the list with most Kentucky Derby futures odds as a pedigree of Into Mischief, and he should remain right in the mix to the wire in Saturday’s Fountain of Youth.
Gunnevera is expected to be in the field for this race as the second-highest rated entry at HRN (7.40), but my third choice for this race to round out a trifecta pick would be trainer Todd Pletcher’s Made You Look. The main reason why I like this Kentucky-bred colt to be in the middle of things this Saturday was how good he looked earlier in the year winning the Grade 3 Dania Beach Stakes at Gulfstream in his 3-year old debut. It was a shorter distance of 7½ furlongs, but any graded stakes win helps build confidence for subsequent races, especially when they are at the same track. The highlight of his juvenile racing season was a victory in the Grade 2 With Anticipation Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 31 at 1 1/16 miles on turf. The pedigree of More Than Ready will be making his first career start on dirt in a graded event.