The Fountain of Youth is always one of the most highly-anticipated Derby prep races of the year, but with the race now at one-mile for the first time in its history, the dynamics of it have changed dramatically from a handicapping perspective. It means speed is a much bigger factor.
That is especially true this year, with Gulfstream's track holding speed very well. Pace will probably be the determining factor in who wins here, which means Notonthesamepage, even if he doesn't win, should play a major role.
The general consensus is that Notonthesamepage will use his electric speed to go right to the front. But will he run a :21 and change and a :44 and change like he did in the Spectacular Bid? Or will he take back a bit and let Quality Road and/or Taqarub challenge? When I talked to Ken Ramsey on Thursday night he wasn't tipping his hand, but if I read between the lines correctly I got the feeling that they don't want Notonthesamepage to run those lighting fractions again. Remember, they think this is a legit Derby prospect and they may have been teaching him to be something other than a speedballer.
Either way, I think it's safe to say that we can expect Notonthesamepage, Quality Road, Taqarub and This Ones for Phil, who breaks from the outside and probably will lay right off the pace, to be near the front. If the pace is quick, the race may set up perfectly for This Ones for Phil, or horses that will likely be mid-pack, such as Capt. Candyman Can, Beethoven or even Rocketing Returns. Or, a deeper closer like Theregoesjojo could pick them all up if the race falls apart.This is a very challenging race to handicap. The good news is, no matter who you like you will get a decent price. I suspect that by post time This Ones for Phil and Capt. Candyman Can will be co-favorites, or close to it.
First, for the horses I don't like: I am throwing out Quality Road, who I feel will be overmatched in his second start; Break Water Edison, who comes off a bad effort and doesn't seem to like the track; Jack Spratt, who makes his first start on dirt and will be outclassed; Bee Cee Cee, who isn't fast enough; and Beethoven, who will need the perfect trip to win, like he did in the Kentucky Jockey Club.
It may come back to bite me, but I am also throwing out Capt. Candyman Can. He has done nothing wrong so far and has Leparoux, who demands respect, But I also thought he was the beneficiary of a perfect trip in the Hutcheson and won't get that advantage here. I don't think he will be close enough to the pace to make his move a winning one. I think the Captain takes a step backward.
That leaves me with Notonthesamepage, Taqarub, Theregoesjojo, Rocketing Returns and This Ones for Phil. Taqarub is the wild card for me. If he is the freak that he hinted at being in the Jimmy Winkfield, we could have a new, major Derby contender. Tough call. He has only the three starts, all at six furlongs. No question about his speed, but is he ready to go a mile? For now, I'm going to pass on using him in the top spot and use him underneath. But he will be used in all exotics.
The Pick: My scenario is that Notonthesamepage will take a lead into the stretch and fade. The horse is very fast, but he has also had some breathing issues. Ramsey has had him in the hyperbaric oxygen chamber. I could be reading too much into that, but I am taking a stand against him.
Taqarub should have a run at the lead heading into the stretch and I'm also guessing that longshot Rocketing Returns, who has enough speed to stay close and might improve off what was really a pretty decent effort in the Hutcheson, will be a factor. But if Prado can get him in a good spot, I say This Ones for Phil takes home the prize.
Despite the outside post, this horse has good tactical speed to get into winning position and his 116 Beyer last out was not a fluke. He has a win over the course, a win at the distance and has been working very well for Dutrow. Also, I'm not sure how much Paul Pompa sold him for earlier this week, but you can bet the new partners did their research and think this horse is pretty special.
I'll play This Ones for Phil to win and use him in an exacta box with Rocketing Returns, Taqarub and Theregoesjojo, who really impressed me with his allowance win last out and could be coming hard at the end.
Good luck to everyone this weekend. Who do you like?