by DUSTIN KORTH
Gulfstream Park kicks off a race fan’s dream Saturday with 9 graded stakes capped off with a full field of Derby hopefuls in the Fountain of Youth Stakes. Carded as Race 14, sophomores will go 8.5 furlongs in the final local prep for the Florida Derby in late March. With plenty of variables at work, let’s focus on this speedy field from a Predicteform pace figures standpoint. For FREE Ultimate PPs of the Fountain of Youth, CLICK HERE. For ALL Gulfstream handicapping information, CLICK HERE.
#1 Candy Tycoon 15/1
The reversal (REV) designation signals the first time a runner scores a faster final figure than 4F pace. It’s a nice move in lightly-raced routers and alerts us to potential stretching out. However, consider each point in the pace figures at 4F is 1 length and at 8F is 2 lengths. With other local runners to compare to, the 70.8/71.7 (4F/Final) last out demands a peak performance with too much improvement for us to ask.
#2 Makabim 50/1
A perfect example of how we like to see a horse incrementally develop tightening dirt spreads (4F minus Final) before stretching out. Over the last couple months, the spreads go as +6.2, +2.0, -1.9, -3.9. Notice the REV happens as the spread moves positive to negative indicating energy starting to be distributed more evenly throughout the race rather than spent early. Having never broken a final of 70, this one is in way over its head but the development is pleasing to see going forward.
#3 Masterday 30/1
Simply not competitive enough from 72.3/66.6 and 70.3/65.1. Horses in the +5 spread range need to be working off a pace advantage which this one will not have.
#4 The Falcon 50/1
Only entered in case the race completely and totally falls apart up. 50/1 isn’t enough.
#5 Dennis’ Moment 2/1
Supporters can take comfort in the back figures with 79.2/78.3 essentially being a COMP designation followed with a 74.5/76.9 SOFT win. The talent is certainly there but it can be difficult to trust a precocious 2 year old that laid off for the winter while other rivals raced and developed. With a lost rider and stumbled start, I can’t yield favoritism at the windows to a runner batting .500 in the ‘clean start’ department.
#6 As Seen On Tv 9/2
One of several who’s running line 76.9/76.2 puts him in position for early contention. The +7 spread sprinting evened out energy-wise to +0.7 routing indicating he can sustain the distance.
#7 Country Grammer 15/1
The debut win routing came back a 58.9/71.1 from AQU. What may stand out is the -12.2 dirt spread coming up against a field that averaged +2.2 spread last out. This would indicate superior late energy so if opportunity presents itself, could be big odds in the lane.
#8 Gear Jockey 20/1
Working off a non-competitive 74.2/66.1, this one tries a tough field without developing over the dirt coming off 3 turf runs before that local spin.
#9 Liam’s Lucky Charm 15/1
Bouncing off the 88.5/81.9 DTOP to a 68.2/62.8, would need a quick turnaround in form just 14 days out of the Risen Star. Is now 0 for 2 around 2 turns putting up any type of competitive figures and another fail today could have this one permanently labelled a sprinter.
#10 Shotski 10/1
Comes in with distance experience and a running spread of -0.9, -4.1, -0.7. Respectable finals from CD and AQU still aren’t the best of the field out of either track so while he could be good enough to make a possible run at the deep exotics, probably can’t be counted on as a win contender.
#11 Ete Indien 8/1
Dirt debut routing came back 77.5/74.1 COMP and improved to a 79.9/78.9 DTOP. The +3.4 to +1.0 tightened spread was a positive moving forward and despite the DTOP, this one has room to regress and still hold competitive figures. Looks like a contender on paper, but I’d project the value to be lacking. Ete will have supporters after being last seen chasing Derby futures 2nd favorite Tiz The Law, but will now have to fend off several other speedy rivals while also looking to break through that DTOP pattern.
#12 Chance It 7/2
First try around 2 turns was a REV in addition to the 70.9/72.3 SOFT win and showed tactical speed to kick off the new year going 75.8/76.3 here last out which stacks up as 3rd best pace, 2nd best final, and one of the few locals with a higher final figure than pace figure. I like all those pieces coming together and see an opportunity for value with many investing in the popular excuse to toss “outposted.”
The key to dirt racing is deceleration (or rather lack thereof). Pace advantages are always dangerous on dirt especially with the short run to the first turn in this one. I’m looking for a nice balance of early position with the tactical speed to reserve energy for the stretch and see a re-do of the Mucho Macho Man Stakes exacta a real possibility. The lone late spread of Country Grammer also entices me at longshot odds in a pace-heavy field.
$10 WIN #12 Chance It & $2 EX BOX 6,7,12 ($22 total wagered)