By Margaret Ransom
The race is named for a mythical fountain of youth Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon set out to find in the 1500s. What’s found today in the general area of south Florida is the $400,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2), a prestigious event for 3-year-olds with hopes of running in the Kentucky Derby (G1).
With Derby qualifying point of 50-20-10-5 to the first four finishers, the winner and likely the runner-up would all but clinch berths in the Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs on May 7.
A field of 13 was entered. Simplification was 7-2 on the morning-line. Mo Donegal was entered and made the 3-1 favorite but spiked a mild fever and will not run.
Gulfstream Park named the race for the mythical fountain, and we’re into the 90th running on Saturday. Five Fountain of Youth winners have gone on to win the Derby — Tim Tam (1958), Kauai King (1966), Spectacular Bid (1979), Thunder Gulch (1995), and Orb (2013).
Five others finished second or third in the Fountain of Youth before wearing the famed garland of roses — Iron Liege (1957), Pleasant Colony (1981), Swale (1984), Unbridled (1990) and Go for Gin (1994).
Fourteen horses have completed the Fountain of Youth-Florida Derby (G1) double, the most recent being Orb in 2013. He is also one of four to complete the Fountain of Youth-Florida Derby-Kentucky Derby hat trick. The other three are Tim Tam (1958), Spectacular Bid (1979) and Thunder Gulch (1995).
Some other famous names found on the winner’s list include In Reality, Al Hattab, Shecky Greene, Darn That Alarm, Vicar, Songandaprayer, Mohaymen, and Gunnevera.
The race was not run in three years – 1946, 1948 and 1952. In 1983, 1986 and 1993 the race was split into two divisions. In 1947 it was run twice – early in the year for 3-year-olds and again late in the year for 2-year-olds.
The race has three records for a final time because it’s been run at three distances: 1 mile in 1:35.01 (2009, Quality Road); 1 1/16 miles in 1:41 (1978, Sensitive Prince); and 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.87 (2010, Eskendereya). In 2012, Gulfstream added a second finish line so the Fountain of Youth and other dirt races could be contested at 1 1/16 miles.
Hall of Famers Jimmy Jones, D. Wayne Lukas, and Todd Pletcher have saddled three winners apiece. Pletcher sent out Scat Daddy (2007), Eskendereya (2010) and Itsaknockout (2012), the latter finishing second before being elevated to the victory following the disqualification of the actual winner, Upstart. Lukas saddled Dance Floor (1992), Thunder Gulch (1995), and High Yield (2000). Jones was responsible for wins for Gen. Duke (1957), Tim Tam (1958), and Beau Prince (1961).
In 2019, Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez was aboard Code of Honor to pick up his fifth career Fountain of Youth win and take a one-race lead in FOY victories over fellow Hall of Famer Jerry Bailey. He also rode Scat Daddy (2007), Quality Road (2009), Eskendereya (2010) and Orb (2013).
Two years ago, Ete Indien won for trainer Patrick Biancone and jockey Florent Geroux. Last year, Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey tightened the girth on Greatest Honour for the win.
Saturday’s weather is expected to be warm and pleasant, with partly cloudy skies and highs in the low 80s. Expect fast and firm conditions. A total of 13 races have been carded of which nine are stakes and eight graded. The Fountain of Youth is the 12th race post time of 5:42 p.m. ET.
The Fountain of Youth field in post-position order, with jockeys, trainers, and odds.
Social Inclusion—Peruvian Jane, by Colonel John
Not This Time—Simply Confection, by Candy Ride (Arg)
Not This Time—Werewolf, by Arch
Not This Time—Sweet Sweet Annie, by Curlin
Cajun Breeze—Slick and True, by Yes It’s True
Connect—Jazz Tune, by Johannesburg
Cupid—Afleet Honey, by Uncle Mo
More Than Ready—Hard Cloth, by Hard Spun
Gormley—Champagne Sue, by Elusive Quality
Giant’s Causeway—Game for More, by More Than Ready
Carpe Diem—Mama Nadine, by A.P. Indy
Mo Donegal (Irad Ortiz, Jr., Todd Pletcher), 3-1
Uncle Mo—Callingmissbrown, by Pulpit
Galt (Joel Rosario, Bill Mott), 12-1 (AE)
Medaglia d’Oro—Ivanavinalot, by West Acre
California native and lifelong horsewoman Margaret Ransom is a graduate of the University of Arizona’s Race Track Industry Program. She got her start in racing working in the publicity departments at Calder Race Course and Hialeah Park, as well as in the racing office at Gulfstream Park in South Florida. She then spent six years in Lexington, KY, at BRISnet.com, where she helped create and develop the company’s popular newsletters: Handicapper’s Edge and Bloodstock Journal.After returning to California, she served six years as the Southern California news correspondent for BloodHorse, assisted in the publicity department at Santa Anita Park and was a contributor to many other racing publications, including HorsePlayer Magazine and Trainer Magazine. She then spent seven years at HRTV and HRTV.com in various roles as researcher, programming assistant, producer and social media and marketing manager.
She has also walked hots and groomed runners, worked the elite sales in Kentucky for top-class consignors and volunteers for several racehorse retirement organizations, including CARMA.In 2016, Margaret was the recipient of the prestigious Stanley Bergstein Writing Award, sponsored by Team Valor, and was an Eclipse Award honorable mention for her story, “The Shocking Untold Story of Maria Borell,” which appeared on USRacing.com. The article and subsequent stories helped save 43 abandoned and neglected Thoroughbreds in Kentucky and also helped create a new animal welfare law in Kentucky known as the “Borell Law.”Margaret’s very first Breeders’ Cup was at Hollywood Park in 1984 and she has attended more than half of the Breeders’ Cups since. She counts Holy Bull and Arrogate as her favorite horses of all time.She lives in Robinson, Texas, with her longtime beau, Tony. She is the executive director of the 501(c)(3) non-profit horse rescue, The Bridge Sanctuary.