The road to the 2013 Kentucky Derby takes a more serious turn with the start of the second phase of the official qualifying schedule. Unlike prior years where a spot in the starting gate was based on all earnings in any graded stakes race, this year's Derby hopefuls must finish in the top four in pre-selected prep races in order to earn points. Prior to the running of the Fountain of Youth Stakes (and the Risen Star at the Fair Grounds), the top four finishers earned 10-4-2-1 points, respectively. Over the next month, official Derby preps are worth 50-20-10-5 points, a change that will likely guarantee the winner a spot in the starting gate on the first Saturday in May.
I'd love to come up with some kind of incredibly insightful handicapping analysis that leads to a horse other than 3-Violence (9/5) winning this race, but I just don't see that happening. The pace should be honest on the frontend as 4-Majestic Hussar (6/1), 5-Elmutahid (20/1), 6-Cerro (IRE) and 10-Falling Sky (6/1) (if he doesn't scratch), all prefer to run right up on the lead. Violence should be able to sit just off those early leaders and, if he's fit enough, put them all under pressure at the top of the lane.
If Violence falters late (and that's a big "if"), 1-Orb (12/1) should have a shot to run him down at the wire. Orb, a son of Malibu Moon out of the Unbridled mare, Lady Liberty, comes into the Fountain of Youth off a pair of victories, including a win at Gulfstream in late January. This will be his first test against stakes competition but he appears to be a colt just beginning to find his best stride.
Cerro might have a shot to spring a minor upset in the Fountain of Youth if he can avoid engaging the other speed horses in the early stages of the race, something that may prove easier said than done. His best race was a gate-to-wire win against allowance level competition at Gulfstream in late January, and his lone victory in Italy prior to shipping to the United States was also a gate-to-wire performance.
8-Speak Logistics (12/1) has run into some traffic in his last two starts and is probably a bit better than his record reflects at this point in his career. Top jockey Joel Rosario will ride Speak Logistics for the first time in the Fountain of Youth as trainer Edward Plesa looks for a bit more racing luck.
The odds may be small and uninviting but this race is Violence's to lose. If the favorite runs back to his form in the G1-CashCall Futurity, it's hard to see any of these horses beating him. If he comes up flat in his first start of 2013, this race could turn into an all-out mess in the final furlong.
If we're looking for a bit more of a price in this race, Orb might be the play. He probably won't go to post as his 12/1 morning line odds (somewhere around 6/1 is more realistic), but he might represent the best chance to beat Violence should the favorite prove vulnerable.
|1||Orb||J. Velazquez||S. McGaughey||12/1|
|2||Joshua's Comprise||E. Prado||B. Rose||30/1|
|3||Violence||J. Castellano||T. Pletcher||9/5|
|4||Majestic Hussar||L. Saez||E. Kenneally||6/1|
|5||Elmutahid||J. Bravo||K. McLaughlin||20/1|
|6||Cerro (IRE)||J. Rocco||G. Motion||4/1|
|7||Sky Captain||P. Husbands||M. Casse||10/1|
|8||Speak Logistics||J. Rosario||E. Plesa, Jr.||12/1|
|9||He's Had Enough||M. Gutierrez||D. O'Neill||8/1|
|10||Falling Sky||J. Espinoza||J. Terranova||6/1|
|11||Sr. Quisqueyano||C. Olivero||L. Olivares||30/1|