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Xpressbet Fountain of Youth Stakes: Contenders vs Pretenders

by Dustin Fabian

February 28, 2019

The Road to the Kentucky Derby heats up in South Florida this Saturday with the Xpressbet Fountain of Youth Stakes, a key stepping stone on the path to the Xpressbet Florida Derby and the Triple Crown. 

Among the contenders for this year’s Xpressbet Fountain of Youth are impressive maiden winner Hidden Scroll, G2 winner Signalman and recent allowance winners Bourbon War and Global Campaign.  Get to know the contenders below and find out which entrants I think are contenders…and which are just pretenders.

But first, a note from the Promotions Department…

Xpressbet Fountain of Youth Stakes Money-Back Guarantee

We’re offering our famous Money-Back Guarantee on 23 key Kentucky Derby prep races, including the Grade 2 Xpressbet Fountain of Youth.  Bet your horse to Win and get your cash back, up to $10, if they finish 2nd or 3rd. 

Xpressbet Fountain of Youth 3 Million Point Split

We’re offering our popular 1 Million Point Split on the Early Pick 4 (Races 2 – 5), Middle Pick 4 (Races 7 – 10) and $750K Guaranteed Late Pick 4 (Races 11 – 14).  Hit one (or all three) to Split 1 Million XB Rewards Points for each bet. 

And now, back to the horses….

1. CODE OF HONOR (6/1)

Pedigree: Noble Mission (GB) x Reunited, by Dixie Union
Owner: W.S. Farish
Trainer: Shug McGaughey
Jockey: John Velazquez
Last Race: 4th, beaten 7 3/4-lengths, in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes
‘Road to the Kentucky Derby’ Points: 4 (#22 on list)
Workouts: February 25

He broke his maiden going wire-to-wire at Saratoga in August and overcame a bad stumble at the start of the G1 Champagne to finish 2nd.  Despite a ‘bumped start’ designation in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes on January 5 he got away relatively well that day and was just slow into stride and came up flat down the lane.  It’s hard to find an excuse for that race, but it was his first off a 91-day layoff and Shug isn’t the type to have him fully cranked.  Getting the feeling that maybe that maiden race in New York wasn’t terribly strong (five of the eight who finished behind him are still maidens) and the depth of the Champagne can also be questioned. 

Verdict: Can’t toss him completely but he doesn’t look like a major candidate here, especially on the win end.  PRETENDER

2. EPIC DREAMER (20/1)

Pedigree: Orb x Dixie Crisp, by Dixieland Band
Owner: Epic Racing, LLC
Trainer: Kelly Breen
Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione
‘Road to the Kentucky Derby’ Points: 1 (#46 on list)
Last Race: 4th, beaten 2 1/4-lengths in the G2 Holy Bull Stakes

One of two entrants in the Xpressbet Fountain of Youth sired by another FOY winner (the other being Union’s Destiny), this son of ’13 winner Orb employs an opposite running style of his sire.  While Orb was a deep closer that burst onto the scene late in races, Epic Dreamer does his best running up front.  He took the field in the G2 Holy Bull to the head of the lane and succumbed late to a number of challengers.  Unfortunately, this race is full of speed horses and if he couldn’t hold off the late runners that day, I can’t expect him to withstand an early barrage and late barrage Saturday.

Verdict: Know his name down the line but for Saturday he’s a PRETENDER.


Pedigree: Curlin x Golden Dawn, by Hennessy
Owner: Thoroughbred Champions Training Center
Trainer: Jaime Mejia
Jockey: Jorge Solorzano
Last Race: 3rd, beaten 1-length, in the Texas Glitter Stakes
‘Road to the Kentucky Derby’ Points: 0

A late (and unusual) addition to the field, Gladiator King is blessed with one attribute – speed.  He’s made the front in a number of turf sprints and can cut sub-:22 fractions if need be.  That won’t get the job done on Saturday, but he’ll have an impact on the race.  Note the rider is winless in the US, with 11 starts combined between 2016 and 2019.

Verdict: PRETENDER, but he may upset the apple cart for a few of his rivals.

4. BOURBON WAR (10/1)

Pedigree: Tapit x My Conquestadory, by Artie Schiller
Owner: Bourbon Lane Stable & Lake Star Stable
Trainer: Mark Hennig
Jockey: Irad Oritz Jr.
Last Race: 1st by 2 1/4-lengths in a Gulfstream Park Allowance Race
‘Road to the Kentucky Derby’ Points: 1 (#47 on list)
Workouts: February 22 | February 8

He sandwiched victories around a disappointing 4th in the G2 Remsen but in his defense it’s tough to close into a race where the field goes slow early/fast late.  He’ll get a better setup in the FOY and his allowance win here on January 18 should’ve tightened the screws and knocked off any rust.  It’s a vote of confidence that Irad Ortiz picked him over Epic Dreamer.  From a weight perspective he gets in on the cheap (116 pounds, compared to 122 for Signalman and Vekoma) and the expected race shape should hit his closing kick right between the eyes.  

Verdict: Major CONTENDER and very likely to finish in the Top 2 or 3. 

5. VEKOMA (7/2)

Pedigree: Candy Ride (ARG) x Mona de Momma, by Speightstown
Owner: R.A. Hill Stable & Gatsas Stables
Trainer: George Weaver
Jockey: Manny Franco
Last Race: 1st by 1 3/4-lengths in the G3 Nashua Stakes
‘Road to the Kentucky Derby’ Points: 0
Workouts: February 16

He’s a perfect 2-for-2 in his career and I was very impressed by his stalk-and-pounce score over Network Effect and Call Paul in the G3 Nashua Stakes at Aqueduct in November.  He’s got plenty to overcome here – first two-turn race, first start in three months and first race outside of New York – but he seems to have what it takes to handle that.  He appeared to be much the best when working in company with stakes-winning older horse Breaking Lucky and you have to believe he’ll be ready to roll on Saturday if they have any hopes of racing in the Kentucky Derby.

Verdict: He’s a major CONTENDER.

6. SIGNALMAN (9/2)

Pedigree: General Quarters x Trip South, by Trippi
Owner: Magdalena Racing Stable, Tommie Lewis & David Bernsen
Trainer: Ken McPeek
Jockey: Brian Hernandez Jr.
Last Race: 1st by a neck in the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes
‘Road to the Kentucky Derby’ Points: 18 (#5 on list)
Workouts: February 23 | February 16 | February 9

He overcame an impossible post (#13) to finish 3rd in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, beaten just 3 1/2-lenths by champion Game Winner.  He came out of that race to win the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes by a neck.  Only cause for concern is the second place finishers that day, Plus Que Parfait, has since finished 5th and 13th in a pair of Fair Grounds preps.  Since he already has a nice basis of Kentucky Derby Points he doesn’t need to be fully cranked for this and I won’t be surprised if we see a bigger jump forward from him prior to his next race. 

Verdict: He’s never run a clunker yet and hard to believe this would be his first.  He’s a CONTENDER but I’ll use him more underneath than on top. 


Pedigree: Hard Spun x Sheba Queen, by Empire Maker
Owner: Juddmonte Farms Inc.
Trainer: Bill Mott
Jockey: Joel Rosario
Last Race: 1st by 14-lengths in a Gulfstream Park Maiden Race
‘Road to the Kentucky Derby’ Points: 0
Workouts: February 22

He looked as good as a horse can when he broke his maiden by 14-lengths in the slop on Pegasus World Cup Day and that he earned a 104 Beyer Speed Figure in the process puts him in Justify stratosphere.  It’s tough to knock a performance like that (and I certainly won’t try) but he did take advantage of what appeared to be a speed-favoring strip that day and the field he was in against may not have been strong.  Joel Rosario rides in from California to keep the mount and he looks like the type of horse that will be able to rate if needed.  And I expect that to be the plan on Saturday.  He’s going to be a short price and it’s a big step up from a one-turn MSW to a two-turn G2 but the sky appears to be the limit.

Verdict: He’s not a stone cold since but he’s clearly a CONTENDER.


Pedigree: Curlin x Globe Trot, by A.P. Indy
Owner: Sagamore Farm LLC & WinStar Farm LLC
Trainer: Stanley Hough
Jockey: Luis Saez
Last Race: 1st by 2 1/4-lengths in a Gulfstream Park Allowance Race
‘Road to the Kentucky Derby’ Points: 0
Workouts: February 24

He and Code of Honor are the toughest two horses for me to figure out in this race.  Both have serious credentials and will take money, but neither is without their questions.  Global Campaign won a first-level allowance race on February 9 under wraps in his first try around two-turns but I don’t like that his Beyer dropped eight points from his one-turn debut and visually he was slowing down late.  Was that a product of him getting tired or of him being wrapped up by Luis Saez?  And that race was only three weeks ago, so can he bounce back here?  He’s another speed horse and he’s drawn outside of Epic Dreamer, Gladiator King and Hidden Scroll so Luis Saez will have to work hard to carve out a trip.

Verdict: He’s a good horse in a race loaded with good horses but I’m going to mark him as a PRETENDER this time because I don’t see him finishing in the Top 3.

9. EVERFAST (20/1)

Pedigree: Take Charge Indy x Awesome Surprise, by Awesome Again
Owner: Calumet Farm
Trainer: Dale Romans
Jockey: Chris Landeros
Last Race: 2nd beaten 1-length in the G2 Holy Bull Stakes
‘Road to the Kentucky Derby’ Points: 4 (#25)
Workouts: February 23

His last race was far and away the best of his career and he looked strong throughout the G2 Holy Bull.  He was 128/1 that day and came within a length of winning.  Kinda crazy.  He won’t be that price again but, as a handicapper, it’s tough to accept that race was the ‘new normal’ for him.  After all, he’d been beaten 12 1/2-lengths and 51 1/4-lengths in two prior starts.  His Beyer that day (83) was the first time he went above 70.  Problem is, this field just looks deeper than the Holy Bull and, even if he runs back to that race, he may not finish in the Top 4 or 5.

Verdict:  I don’t think he’ll replicate his last race, making him a PRETENDER here.

10. FROSTED GRACE (30/1)

Pedigree: Mark Valeski x Class, by Thunder Gulch
Owner: Reeves Thoroughbred Racing & William Branch
Trainer: Kathy Ritvo
Jockey: Jonathan Gonzales
Last Race: 5th beaten 3 3/4-lengths in the G3 Swale Stakes
‘Road to the Kentucky Derby’ Points: 0

He’s a nice horse, but he looks more like an allowance type than a G2 runner.  He performed decently in the G3 Swale against the likes of Call Paul and Topper T but he still finished 5th that day.  The connections couldn’t get his regular rider Paco Lopez (he’s out on suspension) and the outside draw in this two-turn race appears to be the nail in the coffin.

Verdict:  Seems like everything is stacked against him.  PRETENDER.

11. UNION’S DESTINY (30/1)

Pedigree: Union Rags x Ms Anna Destiny, by Anabaa
Owner: Los Samanes, LLC
Trainer: Juan Avila
Jockey: Leonel Reyes
Last Race: 3rd beaten 3-lengths in the Smooth Air Stakes
‘Road to the Kentucky Derby’ Points: 0

Like the case with Frosted Grace, everything seems to be stacked against him.  His outside post is a difficulty that only an exceptional horse could overcome and he’s not quite that.  He ran a solid race in the Smooth Air on December 8, especially considering that was off a 4-month layoff.  You’d expect him to move forward from there but he missed some time in December and has been off nearly three months since that start.  With another post and maybe some more seasoning you could argue he belongs, but this field is too deep for that conversation.

Verdict: PRETENDER.  I won’t be shocked if he goes on and wins something at some point (not necessarily a graded race) but the cards are stacked against him here. 

My Top 4 Picks

1. Bourbon War
2. Hidden Scroll
3. Vekoma
4. Signalman