One Championship Series race has already been run, with Mandaloun winning the Risen Star Stakes and the 50 Road to the Kentucky Derby qualifying points that went with it.
This weekend the Fountain of Youth Stakes, the second 50-20-10-5 contest, will be contested at Gulfstream Park in South Florida.
The 1 1/16 mile race has 10 horses entered, including several with legitimate Kentucky Derby aspirations. Gulfstream will also be the site of the Florida Derby on March 27, which will award points on a 100-40-20-10 scale. The Fountain of Youth will serve as a prep race of sorts, at least for the horses that aren't fortunate enough to come in first.
Owners and trainers are looking for their horses to accumulate at least 40 points, which in most years is enough to warrant an invitation to the Kentucky Derby. None of the horses currently entered in the Fountain of Youth has more than 10 points, meaning only the winner will be able to count on racing in the first jewel of the Triple Crown on the first Saturday in May.
Looking at the field
That doesn't mean the field lacks quality. It's just that the top horses entered have had limited entries in qualifying races. The top six contenders in the Fountain of Youth have 14 wins between them, but only Greatest Honour had one in a Derby prep race - the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream on January 30, where he picked up 10 qualifying points.
The top five finishers in that race are entered in the Fountain of Youth, along with Drain the Clock and Fire at Will, who is making the move from turf to dirt. Greatest Honour is still the class of the field and will no doubt be the favorite when the morning line odds are established. His record of 5-2-1-2 (five entries, two wins, one second place, two third places) along with the recent Holy Bull victory justifies the pick.
Fire at Will last raced on November 6, winning the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf at Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky. The speedy colt won by three lengths in the mile race over a crowded 13 horse field. Drain the Clock has been impressive, with a record of 5-4-0-0, the only blemish coming when he tossed his jockey at the Jean Lafitte Stakes. The Saffie Joseph Jr. entry will be making his first start longer than seven furlongs.
Holy Bull replay?
Prime Factor finished a disappointing third in the Holy Bull, almost four lengths behind Tarantino in only his second career race. His potential may still put him above Tarantino, who has a record of 4-2-2-0, in the early odds. However, bettors may be likely to move toward Tarantino after the Holy Bull results and his more extensive body of work.
The fourth-place finisher at the Holy Bull was Papetu, who at 15/1 odds was next to last in the pre-race picks. With a record of 6-2-1-0, the Antonio Sano-trained colt will once again have to over-achieve to contend against an even stronger field.