GREATEST HONOUR FINDS FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH
Courtlandt Farms’ Greatest Honour wove his way through traffic before unleashing an impressive kick in the stretch to capture Saturday’s $300,000 Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park.
The Shug McGaughey-trained 3-year-old son of Tapit, who captured the Jan. 30 Holy Bull (G3) at Gulfstream, virtually clinched a spot in this year’s Kentucky Derby (G1) field with his gutsy score in the Fountain of Youth, a 50-20-10-5 qualifying points race.
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The Fountain of Youth, a 1 1/16-mile key prep for the $750,000 Curlin Florida Derby (G1) presented by Hill n’ Dale Farm at Xalapa March 27, headlined a 14-race program with nine stakes, eight graded.
Greatest Honor, the even-money favorite ridden by Jose Ortiz, raced far off a solid early pace set by Drain the Clock, who darted from the starting gate to show the way while setting fractions of 23.66 and 47.18 seconds for the first half-mile. Greatest Honor lagged far back while racing in traffic but made steady progress approaching the far turn. Drain the Clock continued to show the way under Edgard Zayas around the far turn and into the homestretch turn as Papetu, the early trailer, made a sweeping moving around Greatest Honour to enter contention under Junior Alvarado.
The long-striding Greatest Honour was steered to the outside while building momentum on the turn into the homestretch and kicked in powerfully through the stretch to sweep past Papetu and catch Drain the Clock approaching the finish line. Greatest Honour prevailed by 1 ½ lengths, galloping out strongly after completing the 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.02.
“He was a little farther back that I thought he would be going down the backside. A lot of dirt was hitting him. They weren’t going overly fast. Going three-quarters in 1:11 and change over this track is not fast,” McGaughey said. “When Jose got him in the clear it was over.”
Ortiz, who was aboard for the considerably easier 5 ¾-length Holy Bull victory, said Greatest Honor’s momentum was briefly stopped on the far turn.
“He’s such a big horse with such a big stride. At the three-eighths [pole] I’m trying to get him going and I got a space on the inside but I didn’t what to stop him again,” Ortiz said. “I decided to go wide and when he hit the clear, boom!”
McGaughey is hoping that Greatest Honour will follow the example of Orb, whom he saddled for victories in the 2017 Fountain of Youth, the 1 1/8-mile Florida Derby and the 1 ¼-mile Kentucky Derby.
“I’m glad we don’t have to run a mile and a sixteenth anymore,” McGaughey said. “When they’re going farther, I think we might see a little better horse.”
Drain the Clock, who captured the seven-furlong Swale (G3), finished two lengths ahead of Papetu.
“He ran huge. I thought he was the winner. I didn’t see the favorite coming,” trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. said. “He ran I can’t be disappointed. It was his first time around two turns and he got beat by a quality horse.”
Fire At Will, who captured the Nov. 6 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) at Keeneland, stalked the early pace before fading to eighth.
Tarantino, who finished second behind Greatest Honour in the Holy Bull, finished fourth, followed by Jirafales, King’s Ovation, Prime Factor, Fire At Will, Tiz Tact Toe and Sososubtle.