Fountain of Youth & Risen Star Stakes + Weekend Quick Picks

Last week, Tamarando backed up his prior form on synthetic when he notched a win in the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields. Kobe's Back finally made good on his big price tag when he took the San Vicente and Tapiture stormed home in the Southwest Stakes. As always, @Derbyologist and I have a video preview of this week's races and another packed week/long video means another unedited version. Thanks for watching and now let's get to this weekend's racing!

2/22/2014: Gulfstream Park Race 6-- Allowance Optional Claiming $75,000
This isn't your usual run of the mill Allowance Optional Claimer, being that it's loaded with Kentucky Derby prospects so much so that one could argue this may even be a more talented field than the Fountain of Youth! Matterhorn is one of three sons of Tapit in the field, and probably the most well regarded of that bunch. In his only career start, which was as a two-year-old, he impressively outran Harpoon in a Maiden Special Weight over eight furlongs at Aqueduct, but was off the work tab for quite some time following that victory. They've taken their time bringing him back however, and the fact he's been working with some of Pletchers best workhorses makes me think this colt his very well regarded back home. The jump from a MSW to a graded stakes is a big one, however, and surely he needs the run. Tonalist is another well regarded son of Tapit who after finishing fourth in the aforementioned Matterhorn-Harpoon MSW, came back to break his maiden over one and one eighth miles locally. While he's shown a great ability to close, he has shown very little speed early, which likely may not bode well for him here. The last of the trio of Tapits in here is Constitution and while he's personally my least favorite of the "Tapit crew" because he pulled himself to the front after breaking slowly in his only start, I think he could very well get an easy lead here and if that happens, it could be all over very quickly. Wicked Strong for all intents and purposes did not show up in the Holy Bull and I'm inclined to think he was a bit overhyped, but that being said, I expect him to run much better than he did in his last outing and if he runs back to how he did in the Remsen, he's a candidate to take a minor award.

Pick: Constitution to win & exacta wheel Constitution / Matterhorn & Wicked Strong

2/22/2014: Gulfstream Park Race 11-- G2 Fountain of Youth Stakes
The much anticipated Fountain of Youth draws a field of thirteen, which is highlighted by Commissioner, who is from the final crop of A.P. Indy and out of a Touch Gold mare. A half to graded stakes winner and last year's Breeders' Cup Sprint runner-up Laugh Track, Commissioner's most impressive performance to date was in a local Allowance Optional Claimer in which he defeated Top Billing. He draws the rail here, which could be conflict with his running style, but he's shown an ability to fight his way through horses when needed. The aforementioned Top Billing is a well-bred son of Curlin who after finishing runner-up to Commissioner, came back three weeks later to easily win an Allowance Optional Claimer over Surfing U S A over one and one sixteenth miles. He draws the twelve post, but that isn't much of a problem in my opinion because he was going to drop to the back of the pack regardless. Whether or not he can pass a full field of more talented horses than he's been up against in his career is the bigger issue. We Miss Artie is an intriguing runner in that he has been penned a turf/synthetic horse, which is understandable given his pedigree, but his run over dirt in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile was better than he's gotten credit for and there was no shame in getting nipped at the wire by Storming Inti in the Kitten's Joy Stakes last time out. Almost Famous is a horse who I have on my radar following his nice performance in the Holy Bull, where he held on to finish fourth after doing the dirty work as the pacesetter and galloping out past the field after doing so. The early pace here looks like it may be on the faster side, however, and that does him no favors. Wildcat Red, a horse who will be heavily played following his win in the G3 Hutcheson, has all the looks of a sprinter and I'd be very surprised if he successfully stretched out in distance here. Another horse who's been thought of as a turf runner, Medal Count closed very quickly to win an Allowance Optional Claimer on the turf last time out. He has consistently worked locally on the dirt this year and his MSW win at Ellis Park was over the dirt after it was moved off the turf.

Pick: Exacta wheel: Commisssioner/ We Miss Artie, Almost Famous, & Medal Count

2/22/2014: Fair Grounds Race 11-- G2 Risen Star Stakes
Perhaps the most wide open of this week's Kentucky Derby preps, the Risen Star features Vicar's in Trouble who looked fantastic when winning the LeComte locally, but he drew the dreaded fourteen post (he'll move inside one spot following the scratch of Bond Holder) and with his front running style, that dramatically affects his chances in my eyes. He'll need a small miracle of a trip in order to make good here even though on paper, he's a standout. Albano is intriguing following his runner- up finish to Vicar's in the LeComte, but drawing the rail was about as bad for him as the far outside is for Vicar's. I see Albano likely being forced to the lead and although I'm quite interested in seeing how he handles possibly having to run faster early than he's been used to, I wouldn't play him on top in that spot. I expect Gold Hawk to improve in this spot, particularly if he goes back to his closing running style with which he was successful in the past. Both Intense Holiday and Rise Up will be overlays in my opinion with the former being more exposed than the others and the latter having found the bulk of his success at "The Bullring" Delta Downs, which has a much shorter stretch run than he'll see here in addition to a more talented field that he won't simply be able to run away from at the start. Hoppertunity, who @Derbyologist has spoke highly of for months,  is interesting coming off of his MSW win at Santa Anita, but may be in a bit over his head here. Being that I'm against the favorites in this race, however, I'm going to take a bit of a flier with Son of a Preacher. This son of Pulpit out of Canadian Champion 3yo Filly Kimchi has only four races to his name, one of which was this season in the Smarty Jones Stakes, in which he closed to finish fourth and nearly pipped Coastline for third on what was clearly a speed favoring track. That was an improved effort off of his runner-up finish to Gold Hawk in an Allowance Optional Claimer last December. Plain and simple, he looks to be a horse on the rise and at long odds, I'll take that over horses who've shown me time and time again that they can't get it done at this level.

Bankroll Play: $2 win, $4 place, $6 show on Son of a Preacher

Weekend Quick Picks:

2/22/2014: Lingfield Race 4-- Winter Derby Trial Stakes: Grandeur
I don't typically put overseas picks in my quick picks, but I had to make an exception for one of my favorites in Grandeur, who you may remember from his past victories in the Twilight Derby and Hollywood Turf Cup. Although he'll be giving weight away to all of his rivals here, he should be head and shoulders better than these and the booking of Ryan Moore, who won on him at Goodwood and rode him to a nicer than it appears on paper seventh in the G1 Hong Kong Cup, is encouraging. The only question will be how he handles the polytrack, as he's solely run on turf to this point, but he has a half brother and sister who have both won on polytrack, which gives me hope that the surface switch won't be an issue.

2/22/2014: Gulfstream Park Race 3-- Allowance Optional Claiming $25,000: Kingston Jamaica
One of the few Galileos in America, Kingston Jamaica will be making his debut on this side of the pond. Although he only has one win in five starts, he was outclassed in his most recent start, where he finished third behind Trading Leather (who went on to finish second behind Novellist and Declaration of War in his next two starts) and a then in-form Lines of Battle. He won't face horses that are nearly as tough as those here and we know how good these Euro turf runners can be with first time Lasix.

2/22/2014: Gulfstream Park Race 10-- G3 Canadian Turf Stakes: North Star Boy
Since arriving in America, North Star Boy has only finished out of the money once and that was in a salty allowance race that included the likes of Frac Daddy and Pick of the Litter. He seems to have found a home at Gulfstream, however, where he was just edged for the win in a starter stakes in December before closing late to finish a distant second behind multiple stakes winner Longhunter. The ever consistent North Star Boy's numbers fit here and at a massive price, he's worth taking a small shot across the board.

2/22/2014: Fair Grounds Race 9-- G3 Rachel Alexandra Stakes: Shanon Nicole
After six starts on turf, of which she won  once and was thrice a runner up, she dominated in a local off the turf NW1 allowance optional claimer over one mile seventy. Her running style should work well in this race and although I slightly question if she'll be able to replicate that performance again on the dirt, there are also questions about the favorites and I have a feeling Shanon Nicole's price will drift up from the 5/1 ML.

2/22/2014: Fair Grounds Race 10-- G3 Fair Grounds Handicap: Unitarian
Few horses enter here with better form than Unitarian, who has only finished outside of the money once since breaking his maiden last July. It may have taken him eight starts to break his maiden, but he's really come into his own since, including having started this year undefeated in two runs, the first of which included now G1 winner Lochte and Cozy Kitten, who was running a big one in the G2 Mac Diarmida before being completely blocked while making a big move down the rail.

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