Triple Crown: Fountain of Youth Stakes picks and analysis

The Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes is one of three races scheduled for March 2 offering 50 Kentucky Derby points to the winner and is the local prep for the Grade 1 Florida Derby. The Fountain of Youth almost always produces successful three-year-olds, with the most recent Derby winner Mage finishing fourth in this prep last year. 

Orb is the last Fountain of Youth and Kentucky Derby double winner from 2013, with participants who started their preps at Gulfstream faring well at Churchill compared to other prep locations. This year’s nine-horse Fountain of Youth appears to be mostly about the likely favorite Dornoch on the surface, but a deeper look at an inexperienced field shows some with real potential going forward into the spring. 

Following an impressive win in the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes by Sierra Leone two weeks ago, Dornoch’s stretch run win in the Grade 2 Remsen is starting to look even stronger. He led from the jump in that try, only to be passed by a hard charging Sierra Leone in the stretch, then gamely fought back on the rail to win by a nose. With some legitimate early fractions there, Dornoch was able to do the dirty work while still hanging on going nine furlongs. 

Returning jockey Luis Saez told the NYRA press office following the Remsen, “He’s a pretty nice horse, but I feel like he’s still learning. When he kind of feels a little alone, he was a little lost. As soon as the other one [Sierra Leone] came to him, he saw him and he wanted to beat him. I can’t describe this. He wants to win the race. Jose tried to close, but he’s a big horse and he got through. It’s pretty difficult to come back, but he has a big stride, and two jumps – he was right there. I was pretty surprised. Every day, you learn something new from horses, and this is a pretty special horse.” 

A repeat of his Remsen may be good enough to beat this group, but pace pressure will once again be a challenge. It may be difficult for Dornoch to maintain similar fractions against this group. 

The two who could apply early pressure to Dornoch appear to be Speak Easy and Victory Avenue, breaking from the one and three posts, respectively. Each has only raced once, finishing one-two in a seven-furlong maiden try over this track in late January. Despite finishing second, Victory Avenue enters here with shorter 4/1 morning line odds to Speak Easy’s 9/2, likely due to his impressive early speed and bloodlines. 

By Arrogate-Epic Scataway, by Scat Daddy, Victory Avenue was sold for $375,000 as a two-year-old and will keep John Velazquez in the irons for trainer Gustavo Delgado. Speak Easy has the top-flight connections of Irad Ortiz and Todd Pletcher and was able to take advantage of Victory Avenue’s torrid early pace in their maiden try by passing him in the stretch. He stalked early in that sprint, and should be a forward factor here, as well, given the post position. 

Still, these two take a major step forward in class and add two extra furlongs in just their second career start.

A top choice to take advantage of a potential hot pace is Pletcher’s other entry in Locked, who breaks from the eight post as the second choice on the morning line at 5/2. Locked sold for almost $425,000 as a yearling and broke his maiden by seven lengths at second asking at Saratoga in early September. 

He followed that with a win in the Grade I Breeder’s Futurity, coming from a bit further off the pace than in his maiden. While he was only able to nab a show in his most recent try in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Locked continued his late running style and should be a threat here regardless of the fractions. 

Recently working at Palm Beach Downs, this colt by Gun Runner-Luna Rosa, by Malibu Moon drew top reviews from jockey Jose Ortiz, telling Gulfstream publicity, “He went really good. It was a normal routine work for him in 49-and change. He had a great gallop-out, so I’m very happy with what we saw this morning.” 

Some others may factor in as closers, albeit as ones a bit more dependent on the right scenario than Locked, including the 20/1 Frankie’s Empire and the 8/1 Real Macho. 

Frankie’s Empire is the only runner outside of Locked and Dornoch to pick up a stakes win, capturing Gulfstream’s Swale in early February while rallying from sixth to win going away. That race did come at seven furlongs, and he has not fared as well going two turns, which could be an issue here despite his running style. Still, he has shown clear improvement.

Real Macho enters off a career-best win last time, closing from mid-pack at a mile. While this pair needs to take another step, there are options here if the top choices do not run to their potential.

As usual, the Gulfstream Park Derby trail remains one of the top in the nation, with many in this talented group taking their first swing at gaining points to reach Churchill in May. While some greener horses here may find themselves maturing at the right time, the top choices appear tough to beat.

The Fountain of Youth is the 14th and final race on Gulfstream’s Saturday card with a post time of 6:10 PM EST.


1. #8 Locked (5-2) 

2. #5 Dornoch (2-1) 

3. #1 Speak Easy (9-2)

4. #7 Frankie’s Empire (20-1)