Union Rags & Algorithms Lead Cast for Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth
By Jack Will
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL - Gulfstream Park Racing Secretary Dan Bork has released nominations to five graded stakes to be run over the Feb. 25-26 weekend with highlights including a meeting of leading Kentucky Derby (G1) hopefuls Union Rags and Algorithms in the $400,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) and 2011 Eclipse champion 3-year-old filly Royal Delta and 5-year-old mare Awesome Maria in the $100,000 Sabin Stakes (G3).
The Fountain of Youth, to be run that Sunday at 1 1/16 miles, is coming up very strong with Chadds Ford Stable’s Champagne Stakes (G1) hero and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) runner-up Union Rags set to face off against Starlight Racing’s Holy Bull Stakes (G3) winner Algorithms in a race that will point out leading contenders for the $1 million Florida Derby (G1) here on March 31.
Trained by Michael Matz, Union Rags was the solid favorite for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile after the son of Dixie Union was an impressive winner of his first three starts. He ran greenly in the stretch in the Breeders’ Cup, however, and lost a head decision to front-running Hansen. He makes his 3-year-old debut in the 68th running of the Fountain of Youth.
Algorithms is the current leader in an arsenal of Derby prospects this season trained by Todd Pletcher, and remained undefeated in three career starts with a stunning five-length victory in the one-mile Holy Bull Stakes (G3) here on Jan. 29 under regular rider Javier Castellano. The son of Bernardini won his debut at Belmont Park in June by 5 ¾ lengths and an allowance race here on Dec. 16.
Pletcher has indicated he also plans to run E. Paul Robsham Stable’s Florida homebred Discreet Dancer in the Fountain of Youth as well, and he has established a following of his own with a pair of brilliant victories at the meet to begin his career. He won his debut by 9 ¾ lengths on Dec. 3 and a one-mile allowance by 5 ¼ lengths on Jan. 7. The son of Discreet Cat set a track record for 5 ½ furlongs in his debut.
Also to be run on Sunday’s Fountain of Youth card will be the $150,000 Mac Diarmida Stakes (G2) for 4-year-olds and up at 1 3/8 miles on turf. Prominent among the nominees are Phipps Stable’s Boisterous, Stella Perdomo’s Musketier, Augustin Stable’s Smart Bid and Alex and Joanne Lieblong’s Telling.
Three Graded Stakes for Fillies & Mares on Saturday
The $250,000 Davona Dale Stakes (G2) for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles is the richest of three graded stakes on the Sat., Feb. 25 card, but the ‘big race’ that afternoon will be the $100,000 Sabin Stakes for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles featuring an expected dream match-up between Eclipse champion Royal Delta and Awesome Maria, who appeared headed for a title season early last year winning her first four starts.
Hall of Fame horseman Bill Mott sealed a fourth Eclipse Award for himself as trainer of the year in 2011 when sending out Drosselmeyer to score in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5 after saddling Palisades Investments’ 3-year-old filly Royal Delta to defeat older fillies and mares in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic (G1) the day before.
Purchased days later from the Keeneland November sales for $8.5 million by Benjamin Leon’s Besilu Stable, Royal Delta was sent back to the care of Mott at Payson Park and appears set to launch her 2012 campaign in the Sabin. Mott has indicated the daughter of Empire Maker will use the race as a tune-up for a start next in the $10 million Dubai World Cup (G1) on March 31.
While Royal Delta was making only the second start of her career in March last year before emerging as a leader in her division, E. Paul Robsham Stable’s 5-year-old Kentucky homebred Awesome Maria was off to a flying start at Gulfstream sweeping to an easy score winning the Sabin by 4 ¾ lengths in February and the Rampart Stakes (G3) in March by eight lengths for trainer Todd Pletcher.
A roan/gray daughter of Maria Mon, Awesome Maria went on to go 4-for-4 on the season winning the Shuvee Handicap (G2) in May and Ogden Phipps Handicap (G1) in June at Belmont Park before suffering a condylar fracture training for the Ruffian Invitational (G1) at Saratoga in late July.
Michael Dubb and partners’ 3-year-old filly Grace Hall is the most accomplished prospect for the Davona Dale as she prepares for her 2012 debut and first start since finishing second to My Miss Aurelia in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) at Churchill Downs on Nov. 4. Trained by Anthony Dutrow, the daughter of Empire Maker won all three of her previous starts, including the Spinaway Stakes (G1) at Saratoga.
Completing the stakes line-up for that Saturday will be the $100,000 The Very One Stakes (G3) for fillies and mares at 1 3/8 miles on turf with leading nominees including Green Hills Farm’s Chilean-bred Casablanca Smile, Charles Fipke’s 2011 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) winner Perfect Shirl, and Barbara Hunter’s Keertana, winner of this race last year.