Wednesday, February 24, 2021
HALLANDALE BEACH - Courtlandt Farms’ Greatest Honour, already a prime prospect on the strength of his dominating victory in the Gr. III Holy Bull , will take a significant step along the Road to the Triple Crown in Saturday’s $300,000, Gr. II Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park.
The Shug McGaughey-trained colt will have the opportunity to virtually clinch a spot in this year’s Kentucky Derby field with a win in the Fountain of Youth, a 50-20-10-5 qualifying points race, as well as the important prep for the $750,000 Curlin Florida Derby presented by Hill ‘n Dale Farm at Xalapa on March 27.
The Fountain of Youth, a tradition-rich 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-olds, will anchor Saturday’s blockbuster 14-race program with nine stakes, including the $200,000, Gr. II Davona Dale, featuring the 2021 debut of Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies heroine and Eclipse Award winner Vequist.
Greatest Honour, who broke his maiden in his fourth career start on Dec. 26, rallied from seventh in a field of nine to draw away by 5 ¾ lengths under Jose Ortiz in the 1 1/16-mile Holy Bull. The son of Tapit has shown McGaughey all the signs that he has moved forward in his training at Payson Park since his winning stakes debut.
“He had a really good work up there Sunday morning. I was pleased with the work and was very pleased with the way he looked and the way he was acting,” said McGaughey, who is hoping Greatest Honour, at 9-5 in the morning line, will follow the example of Orb, whom he saddled for victories in the Fountain of Youth, Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby in 2013.
The home-bred colt launched his career with a pair of strong closing third-place finishes in maiden special weight sprints at Saratoga and Belmont before losing a photo finish in his first trip around two turns at Aqueduct and completing his juvenile season with his 1 1/16-mile maiden breaker at Gulfstream.
McGaughey would gladly accept a set-up in the Fountain of Youth like the one he had in the Holy Bull, in which he rated well behind a contested early pace before producing a strong stretch rally. Jose Ortiz has the return mount on Greatest Honour, who drew Post No. 8 in a field of 10.
Three Diamonds Farm’s Fire At Will (7-2), who captured the Nov. 6 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Keeneland last time out, is set to return to dirt in the Fountain of Youth.
“It’s a tough task, whether he’s a dirt horse or a turf horse, but he’s earned the chance,” trainer Michael Maker said.
After finishing sixth on turf in his Aug. 8 debut at Saratoga, Fire At Will broke his maiden in the Sept. 2 With Anticipation Stakes over a sloppy main track at the Spa. The son of Declaration of War went back to turf to capture the Oct. 3 Gr. II Pilgrim at Belmont by two lengths and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf by three lengths.
Kendrick Carmouche, who guided Fire At Will to victory in the Pilgrim, returns to the saddle.
Tarantino made a respectable transition from turf to dirt in the Holy Bull, in which he pressed a solid early pace before finishing second behind Greatest Honour and 3 ¾ lengths ahead of third-place finisher Prime Factor.
The 3-year-old son of Pioneerof the Nile was a nose away from being undefeated on turf in his first three starts. He won his debut and lost a stakes by a nose in Southern California with Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert before capturing a Dec. 11 optional claiming allowance on turf at Gulfstream in his first start for trainer Rodolphe Brisset and finishing second in the Holy Bull on dirt.
“We’re hoping he can be a couple lengths better this time,” said Brisset, who expects Tarantino (8-1) to move forward from his dirt debut. Tyler Gaffalione is scheduled to ride Tarantino for the first time.
Prime Factor (5-1), who was favored in the Holy Bull, will be seeking to rebound in the Fountain of Youth. The son of Quality Rod debuted with a dazzling 8 ¾-length victory at Gulfstream on Dec. 12 before taking a giant step up in the Holy Bull, in which he stalked the pace and raced evenly in the stretch to finish a distant third.
“We’re hoping he shows improvement after having only two starts. He came out of that race good. He came back with two really good breezes,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “We’re just hoping it was a lack of experience and seasoning. He’s trained like a good horse, so we’ll see what he can do.”
Pletcher named Irad Ortiz Jr. to ride Prime Factor.
Magic Stable LLC’s Papetu, who finished three-quarters of a length behind Prime Factor while checking in fourth in the Holy Bull, will also return in the Fountain of Youth.
“I think he made his move too soon,” trainer Antonio Sano said of his 15-1 shot. “He needs to relax early and make his run at the three-eighths [pole].”
Sano, who saddled Gunnevera for a victory in the 2017 Fountain of Youth, has named Junior Alvarado to ride Papetu.
Dale Romans, who saddled Promises Fulfilled for a Fountain of Youth score in 2018, will be represented by Ovation (15-1), who finished second behind Drain the Clock in the Swale.
Jirafales, Sososubtle (20-1), and Tiz Tact Toe (30-1) round out the field.
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