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Feb 25, 2011

To Honor and Serve meets Soldat in the Fountain of Youth

By: By Jeff Frank, Contributing Editor


Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Two of the leading Kentucky Derby contenders will square off in Saturday's Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park when To Honor and Serve and Soldat headline the Grade II event at 1 1/8 miles.

The race sports a purse of $400,000. The winner will gain a cool $240,000 of graded earnings, but the money does not matter to the two stars as they both have more than enough dough to qualify for the Derby.

To Honor and Serve hasn't raced since defeating recent Risen Star winner Mucho Macho Man in last November's Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct. The bay colt has worked every seven days since Jan. 30, but all four were breezes down at Payson Park.

There are a few obstacles, including To Honor and Serve going nine furlongs off a four-month layoff. Furthermore, trainer Bill Mott hasn't prepped his 3- year-old with any handy works, something he did five days before the Remsen when the colt put in a 47 3/5-second workout over four furlongs. Look for the son of Bernardini to be a factor throughout much of the race, but run out of gas inside the final furlong.

Soldat, on the other hand, comes into the Fountain of Youth off an ultra- impressive win in a 1 1/8-mile allowance race at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 21. The April foal cruised by 10 3/4 lengths that day over a field full of recent maiden winners. Prior to that effort, he finished second to Pluck in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf at Churchill Downs.

The only question mark for the son of War Front is how he will handle a fast dirt track. His last race came over the slop and his three previous starts were all on the grass.

Gourmet Dinner is another colt that will take some money at the windows, albeit not anywhere near the amount as the top two favorites. Trainer Steven Standridge has taken his charge all across the country and it's paid off with $700,000 in graded earnings.

This will be the first time since last October that Gourmet Dinner will have back-to-back starts at the same location and he has already responded with a couple of dazzling workouts at Gulfstream Park. In addition, his third-place finish in the Holy Bull was very impressive. He made his move a tad early down the backstretch and still had enough left to just miss second money by a head.

Two more entrants come out of an entry-level allowance race on Feb. 5. Shackleford and Casper's Touch ran first and second, respectively, in that 1 1/8-mile event, but despite losing by 2 1/4 lengths Casper's Touch had the tougher trip, getting bumped hard in the stretch by Shadow Warrior. Both colts should improve off that race, particularly since it was the 2011 debut for each of them.

Selections: 1) Soldat; 2) Gourmet Dinner; 3) To Honor and Serve.

THE SEVEN-FURLONG HUTCHESON

Also on the Gulfstream Park card on Saturday is the seven-furlong Grade II Hutcheson Stakes.

Travelin Man was a most impressive winner earlier in the meeting, breaking his maiden by 7 1/4 lengths while running six furlongs in 1:09. Trainer Todd Pletcher has been pointing him for this spot ever since, and even though this is a mighty step up in class, the bay colt has the talent to overcome any and all obstacles.

Richard Dutrow unleashed a major player in the third at Aqueduct on Jan. 15 in Flashpoint. The son of Pomeroy debuted with a 6 1/4-length score in 1:09 3/5. The colt has already worked twice at Gulfstream, including six furlongs in 1:12 flat last Saturday. However, this is a big step up in going from the inner dirt at Ozone Park to South Florida.

Manicero returns to the races after his win in the Pasco Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs. Even though he's bred to go long, trainer Leo Azpurua Jr. is doing the smart thing by keeping the son of Mass Media in sprints as the colt failed to open up on his rivals through the stretch in his last two races.

Crossbow looked like the real deal on Jan. 29, winning a seven-furlong allowance race over the track, knocking off the highly touted Sovereign Default in the process. The Kiaran McLaughlin-trained colt stopped the clock in 1:22 4/5 that day and is primed for another huge effort in the Hutcheson.

Black N Beauty drops down a furlong after a disappointing fifth-place finish in the one-mile Holy Bull Stakes. His previous race was also at eight furlongs, so unless he's hard to handle, he might not set as fast a pace as he did against Dialed In last month.

Selections: 1) Travelin Man; 2) Crossbow; 3) Black N Beauty.

BANDBOX RETURNS AT LAUREL

Saturday's Miracle Wood Stakes at Laurel will not help any horse gain graded earnings for the Kentucky Derby, but it does feature the 3-year-old debut of Bandbox.

The colt won his first three starts at three different racetracks before running into severe trouble in the Remsen Stakes - his first try around two turns. He was bumped hard and then taken up around the first turn after clipping heels with Mucho Macho Man. Jockey Ramon Dominguez had to steady his mount approaching the backstretch.

The son of Tapit ended up fourth, beaten 18 lengths, but it's doubtful he wants any part of nine furlongs. This seven-furlong event should be more towards his liking, especially if he can sit behind Diski Dance and J J's Lucky Train. The latter comes into the Miracle Wood off two straight seconds in stakes races at Aqueduct, so the public might make him the favorite.

Selections: 1) Bandbox; 2) J J's Lucky Train; 3) Wicked Thunder.



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