Zulu looks to Fountain of Youth to earn Derby points
Surely, Todd Pletcher will saddle a horse in the Kentucky Derby in a few months.
He will, right?
Entering Saturday's $400,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park, Pletcher has just one 3-year-old among the top 50 in the Derby qualifying points standings - Destin with 1 point.
The acclaimed trainer hopes to change that when he sends out Zulu to take on favorite Mohaymen in the Fountain of Youth, a 1 1/16th-mile Derby prep race with 50 points to the winner, 20 for second, 10 for third and 5 for fourth
''We could have opted for an easier spot,'' Pletcher said this week, ''but we felt like it was in his best interests to stay on a track that he's 2 for 2 on and find out where he fits with the big boys.''
Pletcher has run at least one 3-year-old in the Derby 12 years in a row, has a total of 43 starters since his first in 2000, and ranks second behind Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas' record 48 Derby starters.
Zulu is unbeaten in two starts, and is set for his stakes debut.
''We think he's a very talented colt,'' Pletcher said. ''We anticipate he's going to improve stretching out. He'll need to against this group but we've been pleased with what he's done so far and pleased with how he's trained since the allowance win. We'll find out a lot more Saturday.''
Zulu is a $900,000 colt owned by Stonestreet Stables, Michael Tabor, Susan Magnier and Derrick Smith. A son of 2006 Preakness winner Bernardini, Zulu's two wins came at Gulfstream.
Mohaymen is 4 for 4 and comes into the race off a 3 1/2-length win in the Holy Bull last month. He will be ridden by Junior Alvarado and leave from the outside No. 6 post.
''It's going to be tough and we just hope we keep going and stay the same,'' trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. ''We don't have to improve but it's more experience and hopefully we get lucky to win.''
Also entered are Awesome Banner, Fellowship, Awesome Speed and Golden Ray.
The next Derby prep is the Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct on March 5.
In other Derby related news:
- Songbird, the standout 3-year-old filly, will run next in the Santa Ysabel Stakes at Santa Anita on March 5, owner Rick Porter said Thursday. Her next race would be the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs on May 6, the day before the Derby. All along, Porter has said neither he nor trainer Jerry Hollendorfer is keen on running against the boys in the Derby.
- The Florida Derby on April 2 remains the next step for top Derby contender Nyquist. ''He's doing super,'' trainer Doug O'Neill said from Santa Anita Park. ''We're really happy with where we're at right now. He might have a little leg stretch this weekend.''
- Southwest runner-up Whitmore will have a new jockey for the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park on March 19 - New York-based Irad Ortiz Jr. Trainer Ron Moquett made the move to replace Mike Smith, saying he needed a two-race commitment from his rider.
- The top 5 Derby points leaders are Gun Runner with 51, Nyquist with 30, Mor Spirit with 24, Mo Tom with 22 and Mohaymen with 20.
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