No race presents more intrigue this weekend than the 2017 Fountain of Youth Stakes. As a stop on the derby trail it offers a 50-40-20-10 point disbursal for the top-four finishers, and the 11 horse field will also be vying for their share of the massive $400,000 purse. But the focus remains transfixed on the top contenders proving that they are worth backing down the stretch in to the Triple Crown.
Irish War Cry is undoubtedly facing the most scrutiny. Undefeated in three starts, the surprise contender out of Graham Motion’s camp stole a victory at the 2017 Holy Bull Stakes and did enough to thunder to the front of the Kentucky Derby Futures Wager market as well. The three-year-old now has 7/1 odds to win the Kentucky Derby, sitting right behind new favorite McCraken at 6/1.
This is not the home run that it might seem on paper. Irish War Cry was an outside shot at the Holy Bull, and while he’ll be favored at the 2017 Fountain of Youth Stakes, he still has plenty to prove before the sport is convinced that he is the competitor that many are hoping he can be.
Challenging for the winner’s circle in the 2017 Fountain of Youth Stakes will be Practical Joke who will make his season debut at Gulfstream this weekend. The third place finisher at the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile remains one of the more promising talents amongst the the three-year-olds this season, but is a bit late to the party. There is some optimism that he has matured and he is well worth a look as a place bet.
The dark horse in the field is Hurcana Americo, an American-born import trained in Brazil. Not much is known, but as you’d expect his connections are talking up a big game. There’s a reason he’s been returned to his native land, and I’d venture to guess that this big Kentucky Derby prep race will reveal his caliber. I would not sleep on him entirely.
Rounding out the top of the field are Talk Logistics (4th at Holy Bull), Three Rules (2nd at Swale Stakes) and Gunnevera (2nd at Holy Bull). Also included are Made You Look, Beasley, Lookin for Eight and Quinientos who will enter as longshots.
The 2017 Fountain of Youth Stakes is essentially a proving ground for Practical Joke and Irish War Cry. Depending on how you feel about the Holy Bull, they are the most logical exacta box play. If you are asking me to pick between the two of them, I prefer Practical Joke. I don’t actually believe that Irish War Cry is the real deal but I’m willing to be proven wrong.