Analyzing the Surprising Fountain of Youth Results
The Road to the Kentucky Derby took a major turn on Saturday when the champion Good Magic suffered a surprising defeat in the $400,000 Xpressbet Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park.Right from the start, the race failed to unfold as expected when Strike Power and Machismo—two colts with plenty of speed—failed to make serious bids to secure the early advantage, which allowed jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. to send front-running Promises Fulfilled straight to a clear lead over Strike Power heading into the first turn. From there, Ortiz rationed Promises Fulfilled’s speed through modest but steady fractions of :23.80, :48.39, and 1:12.60, and though Strike Power gamely gave chase in the homestretch, he couldn't reel in Promies Fulfilled, who ran the final five-sixteenths of a mile in a solid :31.57 to win by 2 ¼ lengths.
Good Magic? He had a bit of a wide trip stalking the pace on the outside, but rounding the far turn he was under pressure to keep up and flattened out in the homestretch, tiring to finish third by 4 ½ lengths. His wide run accounted for most of the margin, but not all of it, and he clearly ran below form compared to his decisive win in the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I).
So what do we make of Promises Fulfilled’s upset and Good Magic’s disappointing effort? While opinions will differ, I’m not sure I want to take the results at face value. The main track at Gulfstream Park was very slow and tiring on Saturday; Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) contenders clocked a one-turn mile in 1:38.69 in the Davona Dale Stakes (gr. II), and a solid field of older sprinters needed 1:18.32 seconds to complete the 6 ½-furlong Gulfstream Park Sprint Stakes (gr. III), with both times being much slower than you would expect for the caliber of the competitors.
Considering that Good Magic was returning from a four-month layoff, it’s possible that he was at something less than his best for the Fountain of Youth, so the slow and tiring track surely didn’t help his chances. The wide trip, modest pace, and respectable finishing fractions also put him at a disadvantage compared to Promises Fulfilled and Strike Power.
Under the circumstances, I’m inclined to forgive Good Magic’s performance and expect a rebound next time out. He’ll be leaving Gulfstream behind for either the Blue Grass Stakes (gr. II) at Keeneland or the Wood Memorial (gr. II) at Aqueduct, and the change in scenery while making his second start off the layoff might be all he needs to get back on track.
As for Promises Fulfilled, he ran a big race in victory, but appeared to benefit from a very favorable setup. I’ll take a wait-and-see approach with him in regard to his Kentucky Derby chances; we’ll learn more when he returns to action in the Florida Derby (gr. I) later this month.
What are your takeaways from the Fountain of Youth?