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General a Rod, above winning the Gulfstream Park Derby on Jan. 1, has a shot to win the Fountain of Youth Stakes at a nice price on Saturday at Gulfstream Park. (Photo by Bob Coglianese/Gulfstream Park)

If you don’t have Derby Fever yet, you’re certain to catch it this weekend. There’s perhaps no other race that I associate more with launching the official countdown to Louisville (the Kentucky Derby is 70 days from Saturday, in case you were wondering) than the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park. Last year, Orb established himself as a major derby contender with his win in the $400,000 Fountain of Youth. He also was listed at 12-to-1 on the morning line that day.

With value in mind, we will again tackle our featured race this weekend with an eye on maximizing return on our investment. Last month, I rolled out a “Bet a Jackson, Win a Benjamin” approach and while it hasn’t yet resulted in the return on investment (ROI) we’re looking for (I’m bound to turn things around this week - I PROMISE), we’re going to stick to the plan. Before laying out our $20 wagering strategies, which will hopefully return at least $100, here are the key horses that we’ll be building our tickets around:

#1 Commissioner – This son of A.P. Indy hasn’t done much wrong in three starts. Showed tons of grit and a competitive edge when he edged #12 Top Billing by a neck in his most recent race. Both horses were sitting off a very slow pace and did well to run down the leaders. However, Top Billing made up more ground late by closing from way back and also returned to blow away another nice field in his next start. Workouts haven’t been anything to write home about but the Commish could still run huge off of the layoff for trainer Todd Pletcher (26%) and with jockey Johnny Velazquez aboard (27% combo).

#4 Wildcat Red - It looks like his connections tried to see if he could rate off the pace early in his most recent race and it worked well. He demolished a Hutcheson field, which included #7 C. Zee.  He’s looked very impressive sprinting to an undefeated 4-for-4 record under a mile. In his lone route, his lone loss, he still ran well but didn’t have enough to beat #5 General a Rod. Note that jockey Javier Castellano, who was aboard Wildcat Red for his eye-popping Hutcheson score, hops off and lands on General a Rod here. Perhaps that’s something of a hint regarding which horse might be best suited and prepared for this 1 1/16-mile distance.

WILDCAT RED WINNING HUTCHESON

Wildcat Red Leslie Martin -GP

Photo by Leslie Martin/Gulfstream Park

#5  General a Rod- Presumably named after his owner, Armando Rodriguez (that’s not too much of a stretch, is it?), this horse has done very little wrong in his two starts on the dirt. He’s only been beaten by one horse in his career and that horse is the well-regarded Conquest Titan. As mentioned, Javier Castellano jumps off of contender Wildcat Red and takes the mount here for trainer Mike Maker (32% combo). This race also sets up perfectly for General a Rod (on paper, at least) given the stalking style he’s repeatedly shown. He draws an ideal post, relative to his main competition (#1 Commissioner and #12 Top Billing), and I would expect him to sit just off of #8 Almost Famous and get first run.

#7 C. Zee - He just couldn’t keep up with #4 Wildcat Red in the Hutcheson but hasn’t been disgraced in any of his four career starts. The question will be whether he can get the distance. His old man, Elusive Bluff, did his running on the turf and he’s out of a mare who never won past a mile on the dirt. While that might not seem to bode well for him, he clearly likes the Gulfstream surface and his trainer, Stanley Gold, does score at a nice 27% when making the sprint-to-route switch. Jockey Edgard Zayas also opts to stay aboard this one for Gold (32% combo) over #9 Best Plan Yet.

#8 Almost Famous - History has a way of repeating itself and, although it was a different race, it was on this track two years ago that Calvin Borel stole a major derby prep aboard Take Charge Indy. Borel might be well served trying to reuse the same tactics from the 2012 Florida Derby in this race with Almost Famous. The horse has shown good gate speed and could be dueled into submission by Wildcat Red. However, Wildcat Red has shown the ability and even the desire to sit off the pace in recent efforts. The lone speed angle (which is not guaranteed, a few others in here could also go with him early) and the possibility that he may have needed that last race (in which he wasn’t shamed, by any stretch of the imagination in the Holy Bull Stakes) are the two strongest arguments to be made in the favor of Almost Famous. We’re going to give this horse a shot at holding on to a slice if Borel can get him to settle on a loose lead. If the fractions are slow enough, perhaps he can pull a total shocker and win the whole thing.

#12 Top Billing - Your probable race favorite has been a buzz horse since before his debut against winners two starts back. Top Billing made a huge impression last out and looks to be peaking right now. The Shug McGaughey - Joel Rosario connection and the references to Orb are unavoidable. Top Billing comes in with a similar résumé as Orb, albeit perhaps in a larger spotlight than last year’s Kentucky Derby winner. You won’t find anywhere near that value with Top Billing and a few question marks remain. This isn’t a horse who likes to race near the pace and the wide post all but guarantees he will be taken way back early and make one move late. The lack of an overwhelming amount of speed up front is a concern, but Top Billing has closed well into a slow pace before. Impossible to leave off your tickets, but not a lock in this spot either.

Strategy A

$1 Exacta 5,12/1,4,5,7,8,12 ($10)

$1 Exacta 1,4,5,7,8,12/5,12 ($10) 

Strategy B

$1 Trifecta 5,7/5,7,12/1,4,5,7,8,12 ($16)

$1 Trifecta 12/5,7/5,7,8 ($4)

Strategy C

$1 Exacta 5/ALL ($12)

$1 Trifecta 5,12/5,7,12/5,7,8,12 ($8)

TOP BILLING

Top Billing Inside Coglianese

Photo by Bob Coglianese/Gulfstream Park

$400,000 Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth Stakes

Saturday, Gulfstream Park, Race 11, 5:33 p.m. ET

3-year-olds, 1 1/16 miles (dirt)

PP

Horse

Jockey

Weight

Trainer

1

Commissioner

John Velazquez

116

Todd Pletcher

2

We Miss Artie

Joe Bravo

122

Todd Pletcher

3

Medal Count

Joe Rocco Jr.

116

Dale Romans

4

Wildcat Red

Luis Saez

120

Jose Garoffalo

5

General a Rod

Javier Castellano

120

Mike Maker

6

Casiguapo

Jose Lezcano

116

Mario Morales

7

C Zee

Edgard Zavas

116

Stanley Gold

8

Almost Famous

Calvin Borel

116

Patrick Byrne

9

Best Plan Yet

Paco Lopez

120

Stanley Gold

10

Our Caravan

Corey Lanerie

116

Michael Dilger

11

Hesinfront

Abdiel Jaen

116

Dale Romans

12

Top Billing

Joel Rosario

116

Shug McGaughey

13

East Hall

Juan Leyva

116

Bill Kaplan

Equipment Changes: Casiguapo, Blinkers off

Image Description

Dan Tordjman

Dan Tordjman is the founder of the horse racing website www.danonymousracing.com and is a freelance writer, blogger and handicapper. A Syracuse University graduate, Tordjman has spent much of the last decade traveling the country while working in the television industry and has worked tirelessly to promote Thoroughbred racing on his website.

Image Description

Dan Tordjman

Dan Tordjman is the founder of the horse racing website www.danonymousracing.com and is a freelance writer, blogger and handicapper. A Syracuse University graduate, Tordjman has spent much of the last decade traveling the country while working in the television industry and has worked tirelessly to promote Thoroughbred racing on his website.

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