The Morning Line: Fountain of Youth

Union Rags Returns to Face a Pair of Undefeated Horses

We take you back to Gulfstream Park where the derby trail is heating up with the anticipation of our first real deal heavyweight bout. The showdown features a pair of unbeaten horses in Algorithms and Discreet Dancer versus Union Rags the current favorite for the 138th Kentucky Derby. The undefeated contenders are so highly thought of because they are in the hands of Todd Pletcher, the leading trainer at Gulfstream and the hottest trainer on the Kentucky Derby trail. So while the G2 $400,000 Fountain of Youth features a field of 8, there’s only three that are getting all of the attention.

Union Rags is a top class colt and he has earned the odds on favorite title on the current Kentucky Derby Future Wager Line. But those odds don’t matter in the FOY because on the morning line he is only second choice. Outside of Todd Pletcher ruling the roost at Gulfstream Park the only other plausible factor behind it is that this race is his 3-yr-old debut and first at Gulfstream Park.

So let’s rewind back to his 2-yr-old season where he dominated the attention heading into the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Stakes.  The interest in Union Rags was unavoidable after he dismantled the field in his graded stakes debut, the G2 Three Chimneys at Saratoga. The 7 ¼ romp led to the Grade 1 Champagne at Belmont where he again put the field away by a sizeable margin of over 5 lengths and stamped himself as the favorite for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. 

Having to go 4 wide around the final turn Union Rags was not able to make a deep stretch bid that would get him by Hansen before the wire. Despite being denied by a head and his attempt for 2-yr-old perfection being foiled, it was still a very accomplished run that can pick back up full steam ahead on Sunday. Standing tall at close to 17 hands this battle tested colt enters after a healthy dose of training in February and will look to make one former loyal fan wish he had made a better decision.

The underlying story in the FOY revolves around the jockey that guided him through his sophomore season, Javier Castellano. On January 29th Castellano slid back into the stirrups of Algorithms for the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park against the heavy favorite and BC Juvenile Champion Hansen. The big win not only put Algorithms squarely on the map it also left Javier Castellano with a very big decision to make – Union Rags or Algorithms?

His choice to stay with Todd Pletcher left trainer Matz with a much easier decision to make as he quickly tapped Julien Leparoux to take the reins. Jockey / Trainer relations is a very interesting element of horse racing that is often overlooked but always appears on the Kentucky Derby trail. In this particular instance there’s only two ways that I look at: Horse vs. Barn.

Javier Castellano rolled the dice on sacrificing a mount on a horse that could go onto become the next Kentucky Derby champion. Since he has yet to win a Kentucky Derby some have argued that he should have seized the opportunity to cash in on a once in a lifetime opportunity. But on the other side of the coin there’s a different horse whose chances of wearing the roses should not be overlooked. An even bigger reason Castellano may have stayed in Algorithms corner is because his barn is one of the hardest to leave in the sport right now. Todd Pletcher is having a remarkable year and is considered to have the best crop of the 3-yr-olds in 2012. With his success and remarkable training techniques it’s very likely that it will only be a matter of time before Todd Pletcher eventually wins his second career Kentucky Derby (Super Saver ’10).

So that’s what Javier Castellano had to consider, stick with a horse or stick with a barn. Barn wins, Castellano returns to Algorithms, Starlight Racing and trainer Todd Pletcher for the 2012 FOY.

After beginning his career with a Maiden victory in his first attempt last June, Algorithms was held back from racing again until December. The six month layoff had its reasons but what really matters is that it led to another win in his first race back. The Allowance Optional Claiming at Gulfstream ended up being the perfect set-up for his Graded Stakes Debut. His win in the Holy Bull makes Algorithms a perfect 3-3 which in turn also elevated his status on the Kentucky Derby trail and makes him the favorite in the FOY. Most recently updated KYD Future Odds: 10-1; 3rd choice behind Union Rags 6-1 and Alpha 10-1.

Not to be ignored is Todd Pletcher’s other undefeated 3-yr-old Discreet Dancer. Bred in Florida the Chestnut Colt steps out for only the 3rd time in his career and first graded stakes race. Similar to Algorithms’ prior to the Holy Bull, Discreet Dancer enters after a MSW win and an Allowance Optional Claimer in January. The only difference is that he waited until December before making his first career start and both of his wins were at Gulfstream.

The remainder of the field and their connections has to be relishing the idea of spoiling the party so expect for these horses to make the top 3 work for it. Neck N’ Neck returns to the derby trail after a 5th place finish in the Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs and Fort Loudon resumes his quest for the Derby here at Gulfstream after a 4th place finish in the Holy Bull. As for horses making their first appearance in graded stakes competition on the trail is Casual Trick, trained by Nick Zito. All three of the horses deserve a second look as they could be a practical addition to any exotic or live long shot wagers.  

GRADE 2 FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH | Purse $400,000 | 1 1/16 Mile | Dirt | Race 11, Post 5:13

1 Neck ‘n Neck  J. Lezcano  I. Wilkes 15-1
2 Algorithms  J. Castellano  T. Pletcher 8-5
3 Fort Loudon  R. Maragh  S. Gold 20-1
4 Casual Trick  C. Nakatani  N. Zito 8-1
5 Discreet Dancer  J. Velazquez  T. Pletcher 3-1
6 News Pending  K. Desormeaux  D. Romans 20-1
7 Union Rags  J. Leparoux  M. Matz 2-1
8 Csaba  P. Lopez  P. Gleaves 20-1

Kentucky Derby and the Fountain of Youth

Raced since 1945 the Fountain of Youth has a very solid history of horses that went on to win the Kentucky Derby. In that time the race has produced a total of 9 different horses that went on to wear the roses, 4 of which were grand enough to win them both. Although it’s seen its fair share of champions we have to go back to Thunder Gulch in 1995 since our last. It’s only a matter of time before that streak will end and the field this year has a very good shot of ending it.


Thunder Gulch 1st ’95              Go For Gin 2nd ’94                                                                 Unbridled 3rd’90                      Swale 3rd ’84                                                                                     Pleasant Colonly 2nd ’81         Spectular Bid 1st ’79                                                                  Kauai King 1st ’66                     Carry Black 3rd ’61                                                                       Tim Tam 1st ’58


Soldat                      K. McLaughlin          A. Garica                                                                 Eskendereya          J. Velazquez              T. Plecther                                                                          Quality Road        J. Velazquez               J. Jerkins                                                                       Cool Coal Man      K. Desormeaux         N. Zito                                       

Good Luck to all of the FOY entries and their connections. We hope everyone returns to in good condition and hope to see many of the contenders again on the Kentucky Derby trail. One thing we definitely expect is a big race with a potential derby front-runner to emerge. Let’s see how hot the Fountain of Youth can get.

Written by: Little Brink 


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