Saturday’s $400,000 Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park features two big storylines: Irish War Cry looks to back up an impressive win in the Holy Bull (G2) and multiple Grade 1 winner Practical Joke makes his first start of the year. The well-regarded sophomores head a field of 11.
The second of three Kentucky Derby qualifiers at Gulfstream, the 1 1/16-mile Fountain of Youth offers points on a 50-20-10-5 scale.
Irish War Cry rallied last-to-first when making his career debut in mid-November, but the Curlin colt has taken it to his rivals from the get-go in his last two outings, leading wire-to-wire in the December 31 Marylander at Laurel Park before shipping to Florida and dominating the February 4 Holy Bull at Gulfstream on the front end.
He registered an outstanding 102 BRIS Speed rating for the 3 ¾-length decision and will retain the services of Joel Rosario. The bright chestnut is conditioned Graham Motion, trainer of 2012 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom, and Irish War Cry figures to revert to ratings tactics from post 8 given the presence of other speed.
Practical Joke has a lot going for him entering 2017. A five-length debut winner in his career bow, the Into Mischief colt displayed tremendous determination posting narrow wins in the Hopeful (G1) and Champagne (G1) in his next two starts. He was bumped hard leaving the starting gate in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), and proceeded to travel wide as a result, but offered a solid turn of foot to finish a clear third at Santa Anita.
Reigning Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown is seeking to increase his Triple Crown exposure and has been bullish on Practical Joke’s preparations, with the bay colt recording several recent bullet works at Palm Meadows. Practical Joke easily ranks first by BRIS Prime Power (147.5) and will be reunited with Jose Ortiz, who was up for his first two starts and replaces Rosario. He figures to be stalking the pace in midpack from post 6.
Gunnevera, who captured the Delta Jackpot (G3) and Saratoga Special (G2) at age 2, merits respect following a runner-up finish in the Holy Bull. He may not have been able to challenge the winner, but the son of Dialed In probably would’ve been closer if he hadn’t been steadied early on the far turn. Leading rider Javier Castellano rides the Antonio Sano trainee.
Lookin at Eight, who has been sold and transferred to Mark Casse following a three-length maiden score on January 28, will make his stakes debut with Julien Leparoux but drew a tough post on the far outside. Beasley is also making his stakes bow. He exits a runner-up versus the promising Battalion Runner in a two-turn allowance on February 3 and figures to be forwardly-placed. Irad Ortiz Jr. takes over the reins for Mark Hennig.
Three Rules, runner-up in the February 4 Swale (G2) at 7-furlongs and a four-time stakes winner at Gulfstream, could also add to the pace as he stretches back out to a route. Takaful, who will try to rebound after stopping on the far turn over a muddy track in the January 2 Jerome (G3) at Aqueduct, has been a confirmed need-the-lead type in all three starts and adds a noted speed jock in Paco Lopez.
Completing the field are Made You Look, a multiple graded stakes winner on turf who will make his first dirt start for Todd Pletcher; Talk Logistics, a well-beaten fourth in the Holy Bull; maiden winner Quinientos; and Huracan Americo, who will make his U.S. debut after breaking his maiden in a Group 1 Peruvian race in early November.