Friday, February 26, 2016

Handicapper's Corner - Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2)

 Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) looks Chalky

 By: Jeffrey Cobb, a/k/a Chalk Eating Weasel

Hello again Thorofans. My race for this week is the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth stakes from Gulfstream Park. The weather should be perfect Saturday, so the track should be fast for this 1 1/16 mile contest.

Speaking of fast, the track last Saturday was extremely speed biased.  If you weren't on or very near the lead you had no chance. If the track is the same this Saturday you can forget about the old pace makes the race saw.

The extreme speed bias will make the race extremely difficult for the speed challenged Fellowship who will break from post 1.  His last effort was the Holy Bull which was won by Mohaymen.  Fellowship managed a reasonable 3rd place finish 6 lengths behind the winner without ever being a real threat to win. So, what has changed for Fellowship in the last 28 days. Well, for one thing, he gets a new rider Jose Lezcano.  However, I don't think that will make much of a difference here. Besides Jose Caraballo in on another Stanley Gold entry, Awesome Banner.  I am guessing that Caraballo probably had a choice and moved to the undefeated and speedy Awesome Banner. I see no reason for Fellowship to show much more on Saturday.

From post position we have a new comer to stakes action in Zulu.  Trained by Todd Pletcher for Stonestreet stables and ridden by John Velazquez.  Zulu won an Optional Claiming 75k race last out and has been working up a storm. In addition, he has shown some early speed.  On the down side, Zulu has yet to run past 7 furlongs, but his late Brisnet pace figure suggests he had plenty left in the tank to go longer. You have to respect anything Pletcher enters in a big race Gulfstream race, and as a 900k purchase, I am sure there are high expectations for Zulu, and the connections are hopeful he can step up to the next level.

Post position 3 is occupied by Golden Ray trained by Juan Rodriguez and ridden by Miguel Vazquez. Golden Ray was beaten by 18, 3.5, and 24 lengths in his last three races. He does not fit here.

Awesome Speed draws PP 4 for Alan Goldberg. Irad Ortiz, Jr. will replace the injured Joel Rosario in the saddle.  Awesome Speed has shown some pretty good if not awesome speed (see what I did there?) in the early going which will be required for contention on Saturday. His last outing was the 100k Mucho Macho Man stakes which he won by 1 ¼ lengths and showing good staying power in the latter part of the race.

The aforementioned Jose Caraballo will go with Awesome Banner (Awesome Again seems to be well represented in this race).  This Stanley Gold's and Jacks or Better Farms 2nd entry in this race. Awesome Banner is a 2 times graded stakes winner already in his 3 race career inning the Hutcheson (G3) and Swale (G2) stakes both with ease. His early speed makes him a contender, but he has yet to go beyond 7 furlongs. I'm not sure if he can get the distance, but this is the next logical step for him.

This finally brings me to the probable favorite Mohaymen, a winner of three grade 2 races including the Holy Bull 28 days ago at Gulfstream. Mohaymen is trained by Kiaran McLaughlin and Junior Alvarado will once again make the trip in to ride the Shadwell Stables colt. Mohaymen seems to have it all with good tactical early speed and the stamina for that late kick.  The Holy Bull was run almost like a turf race with a very slow first half mile in :49 flat. The pace in this race figures to be much quicker.

When I try to imagine this race in my head I see Fellowship dawdling in back early and hopelessly left behind on a speed biased track. I see Golden Ray desperately trying to stay with the remainders before finally being out run and out classed by all including Fellowship. 

But this is where it gets tougher. Zulu has room for improvement and I think he will like the distance. He will be battling it out with the Awesome's on the lead who will probably go 3 across into the first turn. I expect Mohaymen will drop in right behind those three and stalk them around the track. Unlike Zulu, I don't think Awesome Banner will appreciate the distance as much as the others and will, at some point fall back leaving it up to Awesome Speed and Zulu to hold off a surging Mohaymen down the stretch.

I hate to be a complete Chalk Eating Weasel, but I think Mohaymen will overcome the others and cross the finish line first.  Since Mohaymen will likely not get even money, I suggest $50.00 exacta bet with Mohaymen on top of Zulu and Awesome Speed.

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