Buddy's Saint ready for Fountain of Youth
Before winter dug in at Aqueduct and the snow started falling in New York, Buddy's Saint declared himself a Kentucky Derby prospect in November with a pair of graded-stakes victories totaling 16 3/4 lengths.
The racing world was impressed, and veteran trainer Bruce Levine announced he ``wouldn't trade places with anyone in America.''
Three months later, and just 10 weeks from the Kentucky Derby, Buddy's Saint returns to the races Saturday at sunny Gulfstream Park in the $250,000 Fountain of Youth. A strong showing would solidify his reputation and live up to Levine's lofty expectations.
The 1 1/8th mile Fountain of Youth, one of several Derby preps across the country, drew a field of 10 including Holy Bull runner-up Jackson Bend, Breeders' Futurity runner-up Aikenite and Pilgram winner Eskendereya.
For Levine, who's waited 30 years to saddle a horse in the Kentucky Derby, the Fountain of Youth can't come quick enough.
``It's been three months between drinks and it's been kind of nerve-racking waiting with a horse like this,'' he said. ``But he's training great, working beyond my expectations, and it's time to get started on the Derby trail and for him to earn his stripes again.''
Buddy's Saint, a member of the only crop of foals by deceased 2005 Horse of the Year Saint Liam, did everything right as a 2-year-old. Two weeks after being disqualified at Belmont Park from first to second in his Sept. 26 racing debut, Buddy's Saint won the Nashua at Aqueduct by 12 lengths. Three weeks later, he returned to win the Remsen at 1 1/8 miles by 4 3/4 lengths.
Levine decided after the Remsen he would winter Buddy's Saint in Florida and prepare him for the Derby with only two prep races - the Fountain of Youth and most likely the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 3.
``I pretty much made my mind up we'd give him some time after the Remsen to grow up and mature a little,'' Levine said. ``I've done a little more with him between breezes, putting a lot of miles under him with the Triple Crown in mind. But it's hard to ever know if you've got one ready when you haven't run in three months and you're starting at 1 1/8 miles.''
Two-time Derby winner Nick Zito will saddle Jackson Bend. A winner of five of six starts as a 2-year-old, Jackson Bend finished a game second in the Holy Bull on Jan. 23 despite a wide trip.
In other Derby preps Saturday:
- Ron the Greek, winner of the Lecomte Stakes, is the 3-1 morning line favorite against 11 others in the $300,000 Risen Star at the Fair Grounds.
- Dublin, a Grade 1 winner last summer for trainer D. Wayne Lukas, leads a field of 10 in the $250,000 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park. The Bob Baffert-trained Conveyance, winner of the San Rafael at Santa Anita, is also entered.
- Saratoga Special and Belmont Futurity winner D'Funnybone makes his 3-year-old debut in the $150,000 Hutcheson at Gulfstream against seven others including Radiohead, a stakes winner last year in Great Britain.