It is probably because the February 26 race at Gulfstream Park has the current Derby favorite, Union Rags, against two undefeated horses from the barn of leading trainer Todd Pletcher, Algorithms and Discreet Dancer. Who will separate themselves from the pack and change the current landscape of the 2012 Kentucky Derby prep races? We will find out at about 5:15 p.m. EST on Sunday.
“He’s as ready as he could possibly be other than running in a race,” said Matz of the 122-pound high weight. “From the time he spent taking it easy at Skara Glen Farm in Wellington early this year until he came back to us at Palm Meadows, he hasn’t missed a beat. He’s hit every workout right on schedule. He’s grown up and matured.”
Union Rags, the 2-1 second choice on the morning line, is trained by Michael Matz and will be piloted by Julien Leparoux, who takes over riding duties after leading Gulfstream jockey Javier Castellano decided to stay in Todd Pletcher’s corner.
Castellano opted to stick with Starlight Racing’s Algorithms, a Bernardini colt who is perfect in three starts. This will be the first start at two turns for Algorithms, who has worked twice since the Holy Bull. A $170,000 yearling, he is out of Ava Knowsthecode, by 1987 Florida Derby winner Cryptoclearance. He was bred by Kentucky Derby Tours alumni Patricia Klussman and Oakbrook Farm.
Pletcher’s other colt is E. Paul Robsham’s homebred Discreet Dancer, a Florida-bred who has shown devastating speed in both of his starts. There will be little doubt that jockey John Velazquez will send Discreet Dancer to the front.
“Watching him train and watching his mile race the way he finished and galloped out, I’m pretty sure he’ll handle more distance,” said Pletcher. “Nothing he’s done in any of his breezes or his two races that have indicated to us that he has any real distance limitations. I don’t like running two horses against each other ever, especially two very talented colts that are undefeated. One of them is going to have a loss after this race, and you hate that. But at the same time, I think it’s best for each horse’s development; that’s mainly where our focus is, not so much just about this weekend, but hopefully moving forward, as well.”
The Nick Zito-trained Casual Trick broke his maiden impressively at Churchill Downs last November. This colt is also by Bernardini. “I want to think he just didn’t like the off track the last time and just throw that race out,” Zito said. “He had shown enough to be favored, so we’ll take a shot.”
Fountain of Youth Stakes Gulfstream Park
Post Position, Horse and state, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Neck ‘n Neck (KY), J Lezcano, 116, I R Wilkes
2. Algorithms (KY), J Castellano, 120, T A Pletcher
3. Fort Loudon (FL), R Maragh, 120, S I Gold
4. Casual Trick (KY), C S Nakatani, 116, N P Zito
5. Discreet Dancer (FL), J R Velazquez, 116, T A Pletcher
6. News Pending (KY), K J Desormeaux, 116, D L Romans
7. Union Rags (KY), J R Leparoux, 122, M R Matz
8. Csaba (KY), P Lopez, 116, P A Gleaves