Is Dennis’ Moment Vulnerable in the Fountain of Youth?

By J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman") Twitter: @J_Keelerman

No matter how you slice it, Saturday's $400,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream Park figures to be a crazy race.

As a Road to the Kentucky Derby prep event, the Fountain of Youth offers 50 Kentucky Derby qualification points to the winner. This lofty prize—coupled with the sizable purse—has attracted a dozen promising 3-year-olds to the entry box, a significantly larger field than originally expected.

The size of the field could come into play since the Fountain of Youth is held over 1 1/16 miles. This means there's a very short run to the first turn, and the race will conclude at the sixteenth pole, setting up an abbreviated run down the homestretch.

The battle for early position could be chaotic since the Fountain of Youth is packed with speed horses. #1 Candy Tycoon, a gate-to-wire maiden winner over this track and distance on Jan. 25, figures to be hard-urged to secure position while breaking from the rail. Similarly, #9 Liam's Lucky Charm, #10 Shotski, and #11 Ete Indien all prefer to race on the lead and will have to use their speed early to avoid racing wide into the first turn.

Such a scenario could potentially play to the strengths of #5 Dennis' Moment. Trained by Dale Romans, Dennis' Moment showed a couple of different running styles during his juvenile campaign, a versatile nature that could come in handy on Saturday. In a 7-furlong maiden special weight at Ellis Park last summer, Dennis' Moment led all the way to win by 19 1/4 lengths, earning an impressive 97 Beyer speed figure. He subsequently demonstrated he can rate off the pace by rallying from 3 ½ lengths behind to win the Iroquois Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs in easy fashion.

But Dennis' Moment hasn't run since the Nov. 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1), in which he stumbled badly at the start and trailed throughout. He'll be returning from a four-month layoff in the Fountain of Youth, and generally speaking Romans' best juveniles tend to need a race before returning to peak form as 3-year-olds. Dullahan and Brody's Cause, both Breeders' Futurity (G1) winners who hit the board in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, were beaten in their 3-year-old bows before rebounding to win the Blue Grass Stakes (G1) and compete in the Kentucky Derby. Paddy O'Prado, a graded stakes-placed juvenile, lost a maiden race in his sophomore debut before nabbing the Palm Beach Stakes (G3) and finishing third in the Kentucky Derby.

There are other concerns as well. The quality of competition Dennis' Moment defeated last year has been called into question; troubled Iroquois runner-up Scabbard has failed to crack the trifecta in three subsequent Derby preps, and third-place finisher Lebda had to take a couple steps down the class ladder before returning to the winner's circle. Also, Dennis' Moment's regular rider Jose Ortiz is out with an injury, so the son of Tiznow will be ridden instead by California-based Flavien Prat for the first time on Saturday. Prat is a top jockey in his own right, but he rarely rides at Gulfstream (he's 1-for-15 here since 2015) and doesn't have the same established familiarity with Dennis' Moment.

In short, I have enough questions about Dennis' Moment to feel he's vulnerable off the layoff. Anything could happen in this large field, and there's no guarantee Dennis' Moment will take a step forward off his juvenile form. As the 2-1 morning line favorite, I'm tempted to exclude him from exotic wagers like the trifecta and try to cash a big ticket with horses offering better value.

One such runner is the above-mentioned #11 Ete Indien. While this son of Summer Front hasn't received a ton of attention on the Derby trail, he's shown strong form on dirt at Gulfstream this winter, easily winning a 1-mile allowance race before battling to second place in the 1 1/16-mile Holy Bull (G3). The latter effort was especially eye-catching since Ete Indien was beaten only by early Derby favorite Tiz the Law while pulling 11 ½ lengths clear of the third-place finisher.

But Ete Indien has drawn very wide and figures to hook up in a pace duel with a few key rivals. #12 Chance It—a three-time Gulfstream stakes winner conditioned by hot trainer Saffie Joseph—would be an appealing alternative except that he's drawn widest of all. Chance It does have tactical speed, and he's versatile enough to settle off the pace, so chances are he'll tuck in behind the leaders early on. But he might still get caught four or five wide in the mad rush to the first turn.

That's why I'm going to focus my attention on #6 As Seen On Tv. A stoutly-bred son of Lookin At Lucky out of a Pulpit mare, As Seen On Tv is bred to thrive running long, so it was noteworthy to see him perform well while sprinting as a juvenile. A debut winner at Monmouth Park, As Seen On Tv finished second behind the speedy Meru in the 6-furlong Smoke Glacken Stakes before battling to a fast win in the 6 ½-furlong Juvenile Sprint Stakes at Gulfstream Park West.

As Seen On Tv most recently squared off against Chance It in the 1-mile Mucho Macho Man Stakes on Jan. 4 at Gulfstream, and the result was an exciting showdown. After tracking fast fractions while racing on the outside, As Seen On Tv raced to the front in the homestretch, but ultimately lost a prolonged stretch battle against the ground-saving Chance It, who rallied from farther behind the quick pace to win by a head.

Taking their respective trips into account, I believe As Seen On Tv ran the better race, and the strength of his performance was reiterated when third-place finisher Sole Volante returned to win the Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3). As Seen On Tv will stretch out around two turns for the first time on Saturday, and I'm optimistic the change in configuration will bring his stamina into play and help him deliver a career-best performance. Gulfstream regular Paco Lopez retains the mount, and drawing post six should allow As Seen On Tv to work out a perfect trip settling behind the leaders without falling too far off the pace. From there, he can pounce in the short homestretch and deliver an upset victory.

Now it's your turn! Who do you like in the Fountain of Youth?


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J. Keeler Johnson (also known as "Keelerman") is a writer, videographer, voice actor, handicapper, and all-around horse racing enthusiast. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite. He is the founder of the horse racing website

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