By Margaret Ransom
The Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon set out in the 1500s in search of a mythical fountain which was believed to be located in the southeastern part of the North American continent and which gave all who drank from it eternal youth.
Gulfstream Park named a race in honor of the mythical tale and now in its 78th running, the Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) has become a key stop on the road to the Kentucky Derby (G1).
Five Fountain of Youth winners have gone on to win the Derby –Tim Tam (1958), Kauai King (1966), Spectacular Bid (1979), Thunder Gulch (1995), and Orb (2013). Five others ran in the Fountain of Youth but didn’t win before wearing the garland of roses — Iron Liege (1957), Pleasant Colony (1981), Swale (1984), Unbridled (1990), and Go for Gin (1994).
Fourteen horses have completed the Fountain of Youth–Florida Derby double, the most recent being Orb in 2013. He is also one of four to complete the Fountain of Youth-Florida Derby-Kentucky Derby hat trick. The other three are Tim Tam (1958), Spectacular Bid (1979) and Thunder Gulch (1995).
Some other famous names pulled from the winner’s list throughout its history include In Reality, Al Hattab, Shecky Greene, Darn That Alarm, Vicar, Songandaprayer, Mohaymen and Gunnevera.
The race was not run in three years – 1946, 1948 and 1952, but in 1983, 1986 and 1993 the race was split and run in two divisions. In 1947 it was run twice — early in the year for 3-year-olds and again late in the year for 2-year-olds.
The race has three records for a final time because it has been run at three distances since its inception — 1 mile in 1:35.01 (2009, Quality Road); 1 1/16 miles in 1:41 (1978, Sensitive Prince); and 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.87 (2010, Eskendereya). In 2012, Gulfstream added a second finish line so the Fountain of Youth and other dirt races could be contested at 1 1/16 miles.
Todd Pletcher and Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas have both saddled three winners each. Pletcher sent out Scat Daddy (2007), Eskendereya (2010) and Itsaknockout (2012), the latter finishing second before being elevated to the victory following the disqualification of the actual winner, Upstart. Lukas saddled Dance Floor (1992), Thunder Gulch (1995) and High Yield (2000).
Last year, Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez was aboard Code of Honor to pick up his fifth career win and take a one-race lead in number of Fountain of Youth wins over retired Hall of Famer Jerry Bailey. He also rode Scat Daddy (2007), Quality Road (2009), Eskendereya (2010) and Orb (2013).
With Derby qualifying points of 50-20-10-5, a field of 12 will line up to race the 1 1/16 miles, the lion’s share of the $400,000 pot just icing on the cake.
Saturday’s weather will be cool and pleasant, with partly cloudy skies and highs around 70. Expect fast and firm conditions all day. A total of 14 races have been carded of which nine are graded stakes. The Fountain of Youth is the 14th race with a post time of 6:04 p.m. ET.
The field, by post position with jockey, trainer, odds, breeding:
|1||Candy Tycoon||M. Franco||T. Pletcher||15-1||Twirling Candy—Liberty’s Lyric, by Unbridled’s Song|
|2||Makabim||M. Vasquez||D. Hurtak||50-1||Tapizar—Smart Typical, by Kodiak Kowboy|
|3||Masterday||C. Torres||G. Zerpa||30-1||New Year’s Day—Ferdie’s Gal, by Fast Ferdie|
|4||The Falcon||M. Meneses||A. Quartarolo||50-1||Union Rags—Penumbra, by Malibu Moon|
|5||Dennis’ Moment||F. Prat||D. Romans||2-1||Tiznow—Transplendid, by Elusive Quality|
|6||As Seen On Tv||P. Lopez||K. Breen||9-2||Lookin At Lucky—Untamed Passion, by Pulpit|
|7||Country Grammer||J. Castellano||C. Brown||15-1||Tonalist–Arabian Song, by Forestry|
|8||Gear Jockey||J. Leparoux||G. Arnold II||20-1||Twirling Candy—Switching Gears, by Tapit|
|9||Liam’s Lucky Charm||E. Zayas||R. Nicks||15-1||Khozan—P. S. I Love You, by Stormy Atlantic|
|10||Shotski||J. Velazquez||J. O’Dwyer||10-1||Blame—She Cat, by Bluegrass Cat|
|11||Ete Indien||F. Geroux||P. Biancone||8-1||Summer Front—East India, by Mizzen Mast|
|12||Chance It||T. Gaffalione||S. Joseph||7-2||Currency Swap—Vagabon Diva, by Pleasantly Perfect|
California native and lifelong horsewoman Margaret Ransom is a graduate of the University of Arizona’s Race Track Industry Program. She got her start in racing working in the publicity departments at Calder Race Course and Hialeah Park, as well as in the racing office at Gulfstream Park in South Florida. She then spent six years in Lexington, KY, at BRISnet.com, where she helped create and develop the company’s popular newsletters: Handicapper’s Edge and Bloodstock Journal.
After returning to California, she served six years as the Southern California news correspondent for BloodHorse, assisted in the publicity department at Santa Anita Park and was a contributor to many other racing publications, including HorsePlayer Magazine and Trainer Magazine. She then spent seven years at HRTV and HRTV.com in various roles as researcher, programming assistant, producer and social media and marketing manager.
She has also walked hots and groomed runners, worked the elite sales in Kentucky for top-class consignors and volunteers for several racehorse retirement organizations, including CARMA.
In 2016, Margaret was the recipient of the prestigious Stanley Bergstein Writing Award, sponsored by Team Valor, and was an Eclipse Award honorable mention for her story, “The Shocking Untold Story of Maria Borell,” which appeared on USRacing.com. The article and subsequent stories helped save 43 abandoned and neglected Thoroughbreds in Kentucky and also helped create a new animal welfare law known as the “Borell Law.”
Margaret’s very first Breeders’ Cup was at Hollywood Park in 1984 and she has attended more than half of the Breeders’ Cups since. She counts Holy Bull and Arrogate as her favorite horses of all time. She lives in Pasadena with her longtime beau, Tony, two Australian Shepherds and one Golden Retriever.