Champion Forte Tops Nominations List for G2 Fountain of Youth
Star Pletcher Trainee Slated for 2023 Debut at Gulfstream March 4
Florida Derby Dress Rehearsal Tops Card with 9 Stakes, 8 Graded
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable’s Forte, who was honored with the 2022 Eclipse Award following a 2-year-old championship season that culminated with a victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), heads a list of 32 nominations for the $400,000 Fountain of Youth (G2) March 4 at Gulfstream Park.
The 76th running of the Fountain of Youth, a 1 1/16-mile stakes for 3-year-olds, will headline a program with nine stakes, including eight graded stakes, worth $1.85 Million in purses.
Forte also leads a list of eight 3-year-olds nominated by Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher to the tradition-rich dress rehearsal for the $1 million Curlin Florida Derby (G1), the premier Triple Crown prep scheduled for Saturday, April 1.
Forte has been preparing for a seasonal debut in the Fountain of Youth at Pletcher’s winter training base at Palm Beach Downs.
The son of Violence has won four of five starts. The Kentucky-bred colt finished fourth in the Sanford (G3) at Saratoga after capturing his debut by 7 ¾ lengths at Belmont Park but finished off his championship season with victories in the Hopeful (G1) at Saratoga, Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Keeneland.
Pletcher, who has saddled three Fountain of Youth winners (Itsaknockout in 2015; Eskendereyer in 2010; Scat Daddy in 2007), is also represented on the Fountain of Youth nominations list by Whisper Hill Farm’s Classic Catch, Three Diamonds Farm’s Dude N Colorado, Spendthrift Farm LLC’s Kingsbarns and Major Dude, Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable’s Point Proven, Robert LaPenta’s Shesterkin, and Whisper Hill Farm LLC and Gainesway Stable’s Tapit Trice.
Frank Fletcher Racing Operations, Inc.’s Rocket Can, who captured the Feb. 4 Holy Bull (G3) at Gulfstream Park, is one of three horses nominated to the Fountain of Youth by Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. The son of Into Mischief rallied from off the pace to take the lead in the stretch before holding off Peachtree Stable’s Shadow Dragon by three-quarters of a length. Shadow Dragon, a New York-bred son of Army Mule, and Karl Glassman and Cathi Glassman’s Arthur’s Ride, an impressive maiden winner at Gulfstream Feb. 11, also represent Mott on the Fountain of Youth noms list.
Rodeo Creek Racing LLC’s Blazing Sevens, who captured the Champagne (G1) at Belmont, is also nominated to the Fountain of Youth. The Chad Brown-trained son of Good Magic, who won his debut at Saratoga by 6 ¼ lengths, finished a distant third behind Forte in the Hopeful before capturing the Champagne and finishing a troubled fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
Courtlandt Farms’ General Jim, who captured the seven-furlong Claiborne Swale (G3) at Gulfstream on the Holy Bull undercard, is among the most prominent Fountain of Youth nominees. A two-time winner on turf last season for Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey, the son of Into Mischief finished a troubled fourth in the Jan. 1 Mucho Macho Man at Gulfstream prior to his rallying victory in the Swale.
Karl Watson, Michael Pegram and Paul Weitman’s Hard to Figure, who lost a photo finish while finishing second in the Robert Lewis (G3) at Santa Anita for trainer Bob Baffert; and Gentry Farms’ West Coast Cowboy, a Saffie Joseph Jr.-trained son of West Coast who finished third in the Holy Bull, are also prominent on the Fountain of Youth nominations list.
The Fountain of Youth will be supported on the March 4 card by the $200,000 WinStar Gulfstream Park Mile (G2), $200,000 Davona Dale (G2), $200,000 Mac Diarmida, $200,000 Herecomesthebride, $150,000 Canadian Turf (G3), $150,000 The Very One (G3), $150,000 Honey Fox (G3), and the $200,000 Colonel Liam (formerly the Palm Beach).
The WinStar Gulfstream Park Mile, a one-turn mile stakes for older horses, drew 12 nominations, including Whisper Hill Farm LLC’s Charge It, the 2022 Florida Derby runner-up who made an eye-catching 2023 debut for Pletcher while winning a Feb. 5 optional claiming allowance at Gulfstream; and Mark Breen’s Endorsed, a 2 ¾-length winner of the Fred Hooper (G3) on the Pegasus World Cup (G1) undercard.
The Davona Dale, a one-turn mile stakes for 3-year-old fillies, attracted 23 nominations, including Ashbrook Farm and Upland Flats Racing’s Red Carpet Ready, the undefeated 2 ¼-length winner of the seven-furlong Forward Gal (G3) at Gulfstream Feb. 4. The Rusty Arnold-trained daughter of Oscar Performance is joined on the list by Klaravich Stables Inc.’s Undervalued Asset, Forward Gal runner-up, and a six-pack of Pletcher-trained fillies.
The Mac Diarmida, a 1 3/8-mile turf stakes for older horses, drew 30 nominations, including $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1) champion Atone. The Into Mischief gelding is joined on the list by Michael Maker stablemate, Trinity Farm’s Red Knight, the winner of the W. L. McKnight (G3) on the Pegasus World Cup undercard; and Otter Bend Stables LLC’s Gufo, a multiple graded-stakes winner with more than $2 million in earnings for trainer Christophe Clement.
Atone also tops the nominations list for the Canadian Turf, a 1 1/16-mile turf feature for older horses that drew 29 nominations. Also prominent among Canadian Turf nominees are Nice Guys Stables’ King Cause, a Maker-trained son of Creative Cause who was beaten by 2 ¾ lengths by Atone while finishing sixth in the Pegasus Turf; and Siena Farm LLC and WinStar Farm LLC’s Emmanuel, a multiple graded stakes-winning son of More Than Ready trained by Pletcher.
Fourteen older fillies and mares nominated to the 1 3/8-mile The Very One on turf. Steven Parkin’s Lady Rockstar, who finished third in the Pegasus World Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G3) for trainer Brendan Walsh is prominent on the list.
The Honey Fox, a mile stakes for older fillies and mares on turf, received 19 nominations, including Gainesway Stable’s White Frost, the Sweetest Chant (G3) winner last season who scored an impressive optional claiming allowance win at Gulfstream in her recent 2023 debut; and Gary Barber and Team Valor International’s Wakanaka, a multiple graded-stakes winner who finished fifth in the Pegasus World Cup Filly & Mare Turf last time out. Both are trained by Mott.
The Herecomesthebride, a mile turf stakes for 3-yar-old fillies, drew 36 nominations, including Town and Country Racing LLC and Repole Stable’s Cairo Consort, a Grade 1 stakes-placed daughter of Cairo Prince who has won the Ginger Brew and the Sweetest Chant back-to-back for Pletcher.
The Colonel Liam, a mile turf stakes for 3-year-olds honoring the two-time Pegasus Turf winner, drew 27 nominations, including Major Dude, who captured the Kitten’s Joy (G3) at Gulfstream last time out; Mark Grier’s Candidate, who finished second in the Kitten’s Joy after winning the Dania Beach at Gulfstream for trainer Arnaud Delacour; and Edward Seltzer and Beverly Anderson’s Bluebirds Over, an undefeated son of English Channel who won the Grey (G3) at Woodbine for Joseph Jr.