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Sports

The Fountain of Youth begins the Kentucky Derby preps

Fred Hoffman and friend
Fred Hoffman and friend

The month of March has arrived, and with it signs of renewal and reawakening. Could there be a better way to start the major Kentucky Derby preps for three-year-old thoroughbred horses than with The Fountain of Youth from Hallendale, Florida this Saturday? Probably, but we take what we can get. What we do get is a race headlined by the 2017 two-year old champion and early Derby favorite, Good Magic.
For the last decade or so Churchill Downs has been looking for an equitable method of putting together the best 20-horse field possible for the first Saturday in May. The current format involves the awarding of weighted points for a series of races leading to the Derby, with the horses attaining the most points being permitted into the Derby itself. The Fountain of Youth is worth 50 points to the winner, with 20, 10 and five points for the next three spots. Fifty points should be more than enough to qualify for Kentucky (the 20th-ranked horse had 40 points last year), so the winner of The Fountain of Youth is virtually assured of a spot in the Derby.
Saturday's feature should really do nothing more than validate the claim Good Magic has on the top slot of the three-year-old division. The changed from a two-year season to a three-year-old campaign can often be marginal, but are just as often dramatic as the animals are passing through a peak period of maturation. It was a long, long time before any two-year-old BC winner was able to win the Kentucky Derby the following year. Remember when you were a kid and how you just kind of slid into the person you are today? It's like that — smooth as can be.
Good Magic didn't exactly dominate last year, breaking his maiden in the BC Juvenile. He'll get a run for his money from Strike Power, a winner of both his career starts with Brisnet numbers of 98 and 103. Anything in the 90s is exceptional. Storm Runner ran a 1-2 his last race, an effort at this track at this same distance. Promises Fulfilled has two wins and a third, He Takes Charge is 3 of 5 on the board in his career, but 3 of 3 on the dirt in the money. Free Drop Billy has been first or second five of six outings with four Brisnet speed numbers in the 90 range. The rest of the field looks to be a bit behind this bunch, but with growing boys, one never can tell when the spurt of maturity will manifest itself. It really should be a good race to kick off our Derby Prep series, and I hope the competition lives up to its billing.
Here are my top 16 with points earned to date:
1. Good Magic (24) — won BC Juvenile, 2 yr. old champ
2. Bolt d'Oro (14) — third BC juvenile, next San Felipe 3/10
3. McKinzie  (20) — won Sham with 98 Beyer
4. Audible (10) — won Holy Bull with 99
5. Flameaway (0) — won Sam Davis Good turf, any surface
6. Strike Power (0) — won Swale, undefeated
7. Catholic Boy (14) — second in Sam  Davis, disappointing
8. Free Drop Billy (14) — second Holly Bull
9. Bravazo (54) — won Risen Star
10. My Boy Jack (12) — won Southwest Stakes
11. Kanthaka (0) — won San Vicente
12. Instilled Regard (19) — fourth Risen Star, still can do better
13. Avery Island (14) — won Withers
14. Combatant (12) — second Southwest
15. Noble Indy (10) — third Risen Star
16. Snapper Sinclair (22) — second by nose in Risen Star

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