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

10-horse field.

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

million.

“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

further.”

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.

FOX Fantasy Auto Form a Racing Team, Compete for Prizes
Play Now!