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Weekend Stakes Action: Fountain of Youth Edition (Updated 3x)

Gulstream Park corners the market on graded stakes action this weekend as the Hallandale Beach track will feature the Grade 2 Davona Dale, Hutcheson Stakes, Fountain of Youth, and the Grade 3 Canadian Turf.  Out in the Southwest, Sunland Park and Turf Paradise will offer listed stakes action for three-year-old colts

Date/PT Track Race Age/Sex Surface Distance Winner $2 Win
Sat. / 4:14 East GP G2-Davona Dale 3yo, f Dirt 8.0 R Heat Lightning  $7.00
Sat. / 4:51 East GP G2-Hutcheson Stakes 3yo Dirt 7.0 Flashpoint $15,80
Sat. / 5:26 East
GP G2-Fountain of Youth 3yo Dirt 9.0 Soldat $4.80
Sat. / 4:21 Mtn. SUN Boarderland Derby 3yo Dirt 8.5 Fusa Code $16.60
Sat. / 4:30 Mtn. TuP Turf Paradise Derby 3yo Dirt 8.5 Beer Meister $82.40
Sun. GP G3-Canadian Turf Stakes 4up Turf 8.0

Update #3:

If you give a good horse like Soldat an uncontested lead on the front end, it's going to be tough to catch him in the stretch.  To Honor and Serve, who I thought would be keyed up and ready to go in his first start off the layoff, did little to challenge for the early lead and came up very flat when it came time to wheel towards the judge.  

Update #2:

R Heat Lightning made a nice move along the rail coming off the far turn to put away her rivals and win the Grade 2 Davona Dale at Gulfstream.  She also ceremoniously destroyed my Pick 3 ticket.  Nice.

Update #1:

Gulfstream Changes

1-Crossbow is out of the Hutcheson and 7-Roxy Gap is out of the Davona Dale.

The rail is at 24 feet for Race 2, 5 and 11, and 84 feet for Race 4 and 7.

Below the jump is a look at the graded stakes at Gulfstream on Saturday:

Grade 2 Davona Dale

5-R Heat Lightning (3/1) didn't do much of note in her first start of 2011 (4th to Pomeroy's Pistol in the Forward Gal) and her performances, while consistent, have really flattened out in her career.  It's probably too early to say that she's peaked (she's an April foal) but not too many fillies that make their debuts in July of the juvenile year show a huge leap in the spring of their three-year-old season.  I'll stay away from this filly and those 3/1 morning line odds.

If I'm avoiding R Heat Lightning, I'm very much drawn to 4-Oh Carole (4/1), a two-for-two lifetime daughter of Unbridled's Song that fired a fantastic effort in her first start of 2011 after a 3 ½ month layoff.  She's run well at sprint distances but the pedigree suggests that she's going to love going two turns.  Kenneally might her sitting on a big one in this spot. 

8-Pomeroy's Pistol (6/1) beat several of her Davona Dale rivals in her last start, the Grade 2 Forward Gal, a race that she was all-out in order to hold on in the final furlong.  Trainer Amy Tarrant asks her to get an extra panel in this spot, something that is by no means a given.  To her advantage, however, is the lack of any real pace presence to challenge her on the front end in the early stages.   Additionally, the rider switch to Dominguez can't be ignored; if he's able to relax her a bit more on the front end, she'll be tough to run down at the wire.

9-Dancinginherdreams (5/2) narrowly missed running down Pomeroy's Pistol in their last meeting and will get an extra furlong to make things right in this spot.  Leparoux opts to stay on this filly rather than ride Oh Carole.

I'm going three deep in my pick 4 play for this race: I'll toss R Heat Lightning and spread to Oh Carole, Pomeroy's Pistol and Daninginherdreams. 

Grade 2 Hutcheson Stakes

Any analysis attempting to figure out which horse is going to win the Hutcheson has to begin with 3-Travelin Man (5/2), another impressive three-year-old in the stable of Todd Pletcher.  Travelin Man's only race was a dominant win against Maiden Special Weight company at Gulfstream back on January 6th.  It's tough to get a read on how good of a field Travelin Man was competing against that day.  Only two horses in that field have come back to run again: 2nd place Ninja Blade, who finished 2nd in another Maiden Special Weight at Gulfstream on February 6th, and 4th place Sasueno, who finished 6th in a MSW on the lawn at 8.5 furlongs.  That doesn't give us much to determine whether Travelin Man's big fig was legit.  Additionally, he's going to have a good deal of company up front, and from colts to his outside.  On the positive side, he hasn't drawn against a field of monsters; if he's good enough, there is no reason why he can't win.

5-Flashpoint (4/1) is also entering this race of a dominating maiden score, his occurring over the inner track at the Big A back on January 15th.  Out of that race, 2nd place Simba's Story returned to win a MSW at 5 ½ furlongs on Feb. 13th, and 4th place horse Haystack Needle returned to finish 2nd in a $50k maiden claimer on Feb. 4th.  So, at a minimum, Flashpoint wasn't facing a field of complete losers that day. 

7-Leave of Absence (12/1) didn't do much in the Holy Bull but he's got a pretty good excuse as he was shut off in the early stages and shuffled back.  On the other hand, he's not a speed horse and he didn't run a lick in the stretch...not really a good combination. 

2-Madman Diaries (6/1) goes back to one-turn, which he should like, and returns to dirt (something he's already shown to like), which makes me think that he'll run a solid race in this spot. The negative side ot this colt is that he's drawn inside of pretty much all the top speed horses in the field.  In the past, Madman Diaries has won from stalking the pace, something he'll most likely have to do in this race if he wants any chance of success.  It would appear that Ward is trying to get him to relax following his decision to remove the blinkers for his three-year-old debut.  If that move is successful, he could play a big part in the ultimate outcome of this race.

If Travelin Man runs to 85% of his maiden score he probably wins this race going away.  He's got recent races under his belt and he's drawn against a field that, while decent, doesn't exactly blow you away.  If he stays at 5/2 (an unlikely proposition), he's certainly solid value on the board.  If, however, he gets bet down to around even money (more likely), then I think you've got to look towards the Ward horse, Madman Diaries.  He's also got a number of question marks behind him, but the potential value on the board, and his proven ability to sprint, make him an intriguing prospect. 

Grade 2 Fountain of Youth

Several horses are taking big step-ups in class in the Fountain of Youth, including 3-El Grayling (15/1), 4-Casper's Touch (6/1), 5-Bowman's Causeway (20/1), and 8-Shackleford (8/1).  El Grayling seems like he's got a big hill to climb to compete with this group.  Casper's Touch has an awful trip last time out when he was 2nd to Shackleford and should be due for improvement in this spot, provided he gets a clean trip.  Bowman's Causeway needs to get a whole lot better very quickly.  While Shackleford needs to build off his allowance win in his last start.  All four of these horses are facing a big task by taking on graded stakes company in this spot, but a couple of these (Casper's Touch and Shackleford could be in the mix if any of the top choices falter.

1-Soldat (2/1) was ultra impressive when he won that stacked Gulfstream N1X by 10 ¾ lengths on January 21st.  We still haven't seen him run over a dry and fast dirt track, but I don't know if that will be a determining factor in his performance on Saturday. The biggest obstacle for Soldat is the fact that his chief rival, To Honor and Serve, also possess a ton of early speed and is drawn to his outside.  To Soldat's credit, he should have a bit of a fitness edge after that earlier race.

2-Gourmet Dinner (5/1) is about as consistent a colt as you'll find right now - race in and race out, he runs his race and competes for the top prize.  His only "bad" effort came in the CashCall Futurity over the synthetic surface at Hollywood Park.  Considering that is his only attempt over synthetics, I'm willing to toss that race.  He ran a decent 3rd in the Holy Bull but a one-turn mile that probably didn't suit him as best as the two-turn Fountain of Youth will. 

7-To Honor and Serve (8/5) put in one of the top juvenile performances of any colt not named "Uncle Mo" when he won the Remsen by two lengths at Aqueduct on November 27th.  If you were like me, you weren't quite sure how good that race was at the time given the five horse field and the face that To Honor and Serve was allowed to have things all his own way on the front end.  A lot of those reservations were wiped away with the strong performances of Mucho Macho Man this spring.  The 2nd place finisher in both the Remsen and the Nashua to To Honor and Serve has come back to run two strong efforts, including a win in last weekend's Risen Star at the Fair Grounds.  This field will be the best one he's faced to date, and he'll have to do it off of a layoff. 

This race is likely to be an excellent barometer as to how highly we should rate the Holy Bull winner, Dialed In, specifically due to the presence of Gourmet Dinner.  Given Gourmet Dinner's history of very consistent races, if Soldat or To Honor and Serve were to blow away that colt, I think it would be fair to suggest that those two are ahead of Dialed In at this point.  If, however, Gourmet Dinner comes out on top in the Fountain of Youth, Dialed In probably becomes the de facto top Derby horse in Florida*.

*I don't include Uncle Mo as part of the Florida contingent since a) he's going to make his first start in a glorified allowance, and b) his final Derby prep is scheduled to be in the Wood, not the Florida Derby.