The Fountain of Youth 2023

When a horse like Forte returns as a three-year old there is bound to be excitement and anticipation. Has he gone forward? Is he better at three than he was at two? Is he still the leader of the pack and a legit favorite for the Kentucky Derby? These questions and more will likely be answered Saturday at Gulfstream Park when Forte returns to the races after his impressive win last November in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

Forte will face 9 rivals in the Fountain of Youth. He will be heavily favored to win, he is reportedly training splendidly, and he surely looked the part schooling in the paddock for the race this past week. He obviously checks all the boxes, but they still must run the race and he still must show he is the best of the lot and is better at three than he was at two.

Generally, a quality or classy horse will run faster at three than they did at two and that will often be evident in their first start back. Forte, coming in from the powerful stable of Todd Pletcher enters with no excuses. Todd sends them ready.

Many think the Fountain of Youth is a foregone conclusion and the race is for second. That may be but personally I look at very few races that way and always look for the reason we might see an upset or something unexpected.

The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile has not exactly been a producer of Kentucky Derby winners galore so even if Forte wins Saturday he gets no roses just yet. Those will have to be earned on the first Saturday in May.

Let’s take a look at what Forte faces in the Fountain of Youth.

General Jim is intriguing. I thought he was the best horse in the Mucho Macho Man but for being blocked at a crucial stage in the race. I think he is one of the better three-year olds yet he still is a bit under the radar. I was surprised they opted for a sprint in The Swale as opposed to the Holy Bull, but Shug was right, and he won. He comes in sharp, with some bottom, and gets more ground. He is a contender in my book.

Legacy Isle has speed but takes off the blinkers and does not look quite as talented as some of the others in here.

Shadow Dragon ran big in the Holy Bull at a big price and could be on another significant forward move. He will have to be to contend here, and his lack of early speed or even tactical speed does him no favors Saturday.

Forte is obviously the one they must beat.

Il Miracolo looks over his head against these.

Blazing Sevens was handled by Forte twice at two, but that was then, and this is now. Chad Brown doesn’t run where he doesn’t belong and he could have avoided Forte in the Gotham, or elsewhere. This horse has shown flashes and is also training extremely for his three-year old bow. Horses often move forward turning from two to three and it is entirely possible Blazing Sevens has caught up to Forte. He is a threat to win this.

Mage is fast. He comes in off one race, a gate to wire win in a nice maiden race. This is a very big ask of him. He will have to be awfully good to wire these, but Gustavo Delgado has had his share of horses hit the board in tough spots at huge process. That tells me he can pop with one of these someday. That said this is just too big a task for me to believe in at this point. If this race came up softer, I’d be more inclined to consider him for the win. He should be the target into the first turn.

Rocket Can got a lot better when stretched out. The Holy Bull was not that fast however, and these are better than what he faced there.

Cyclone Mischief was 6-5 in the Holy Bull and mailed it in not running a lick. He will be a much bigger price Saturday if you are a believer or see a legit excuse. I don’t and I am not.

Dangerous Ride stretches out but looks up against it in this field.

Forte, General Jim and Blazing Sevens look like the ones. General Jim should be the longest price of those and even longer in multi race wagers. Why not?

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Jon Stettin

Since childhood, Jon has always had a deep love and respect for the Sport of Kings. His years of experience have earned him a well respected spot in the industry as a handicapper. He now is a frequent contributor to AmWager as well as writing for his own site.

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