Gulfstream Park will showcase many top Kentucky Derby hopefuls in two races Sunday.
The $350,000 Fountain of Youth drew a strong field of 12 3-year-olds. That includes four colts from Pool 1 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager: Anak Nakal, Court Vision, Monba and Z Humor. Thirty minutes later, War Pass, last year’s champion 2-year-old, makes his season debut in a one-mile allowance race.
Of the four colts I listed above, the one I like best is Monba for trainer Todd Pletcher. He shipped to Hollywood Park last fall for the Cash Call Futurity. Despite a tough trip, he rallied for fourth, beaten by two lengths by Into Mischief.
Court Vision is my second choice. Garrett Gomez has taken the call for trainer Bill Mott. Many other colts in the Fountain of Youth have enormous potential, so an upset wouldn’t surprise me.
The Gulfstream racing office did trainer Nick Zito a favor in filling an allowance field for War Pass. They found five sacrificial lambs willing to serve as opponents.
Zito has stated publicly that the Tampa Bay Derby would be next for War Pass after this warm-up race. That’s because Gulfstream cannot run dirt races at 1 1/16 miles, the distance of the Tampa Bay Derby.
I’ve been focusing mainly to the East and Midwest, where I think the Kentucky Derby winner will come from. A suspect West division was weakened further when Crown of Thorns was taken off the Derby trail with a shin injury.
Next weekend, the focus will swing back to Santa Anita for the Sham. The two best Derby prospects in Southern California — El Gato Malo and Colonel John — are expected to run.
• RECORD PICK 6 — A Santa Anita-record pick 6 winning ticket of $3,120,256 Monday was purchased at the Meadowlands in New Jersey. The bettor, who asked to remain anonymous, played an 8x1x6x5x1x9 ticket costing $4,320. He singled two horses — Norway House ($4.40) in race 6 and Medjool ($8.40) in race 9. He also collected 24 consolation payoffs worth another $186,878.
There is another huge two-day pick 6 carry-over of $392,053 today at Santa Anita.
• HILTON CONTEST — The Las Vegas Hilton Superbook is returning its Super Saturday handicapping contest beginning Saturday. It costs $30 to enter, with a maximum of three entries. The prize pool includes all of the entry fees plus $500 seed money from the Hilton.
• HWS QUALIFIER — A one-day qualifier for the 2009 Horseplayer World Series will take place Thursday morning in the Orleans race book. The top five finishers will get a free berth, valued at $1,000, to the HWS. The entry fee is $100, with a maximum of two entries.
Richard Eng’s horse racing column is published Friday. He can be reached at email@example.com.