Eskendereya pulls away in Fountain of Youth Stakes
Eskendereya took the lead entering the final turn and pulled
away for an 8 1/2-length victory Saturday in the $250,000 Fountain
of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park.
Eskendereya, ridden by John Velazquez and trained by Todd
Pletcher, covered the 1 1-8th miles in 1:48.87 for his third
victory in five starts.
“You’ve got to be excited when they perform like that in these
kinds of races at this time of year,” Pletcher said. “I was
particularly pleased with the way he finished. I don’t think we’ve
ever gotten to the bottom of him.”
Jackson Bend was second, followed by Aikenite in third another
three-quarters of a length back. Race favorite Buddy’s Saint was
bumped going around the first turn and finished ninth in the
Pletcher said the Zayat Stable-owned Eskendereya, who also won
across Gulfstream’s main track Jan. 7 in a first-level allowance
race, would likely run next March 20 in the $750,000 Florida Derby,
a key prep for the Kentucky Derby.
“He’s had two wins over the track now so the Florida Derby
would seem logical for him,” Pletcher said.
Ahmed Zayat called the victory “heartwarming.”
Zayat filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Feb. 3 after
his stable was sued Dec. 15 by Fifth Third Bancorp, claiming Zayat
defaulted on two loans and owed the Cincinnati-based bank $34.2
“I knew the distance would suit him,” Zayat said. “He does
not get tired. This horse can run 1 1/2 miles. I was very impressed
the way he took the lead early.”
Ninth in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile when he was steadied
and bounced around going into the first turn, Eskendereya broke
cleanly from the No. 8 post and was second around the first turn
and down the backstretch, a length behind Lost Aptitude.
“I didn’t want to take too good a hold of him out of the gate,
and I got to a point early on the backstretch where I started to
move forward with him,” Velazquez said. “I was hoping that I
didn’t take too much out of him.”
Approaching the final turn, Eskendereya carried Velazquez past
Lost Aptitude, shook of a bold move by Jackson Bend, and opened up
with each stride down the stretch. Velazquez hit the colt twice
above the eighth pole then hand-rode him to the finish.
“It was a great feeling when he kicked in and accelerated away
from them,” Velazquez added. “He galloped out really well, and I
hope he can learn to relax just a bit more in the first part of the
race. If he does, I don’t think he’ll have any trouble going
In another 3-year-old prep race at Gulfstream, D’Funnybone moved
three-wide along the turn before driving away from six others to
win the $150,000 Hutcheson by a length while covering seven
furlongs in 1:22.14.
Trainer Richard Dutrow said D’Funnybone, winner of last year’s
Saratoga Special and Belmont Futurity, would likely be pointed
toward the Florida Derby.