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Gulfstream set to host three key Derby preps

All eyes Saturday will be on Gulfstream Park as three appealing 3-year-old stakes will serve as key preps for the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks. The races are the Davona Dale, Hutcheson and Fountain of Youth.

The Davona Dale for fillies is deep in contention. The favorite will be Dancinginherdreams, coming off a fast-closing second in the Forward Gal. Pomeroys Pistol beat her on the square that day, but I suspect the betting public still might overlook her. My choice is Oh Carole, who has won both of her races. Trainer Eddie Kenneally is showing great confidence tossing her into the deep end of the pool in only her third career start.

The Hutcheson features two brilliant maiden winners in Travelin Man and Flashpoint. It’s a big class rise facing winners for the first time, especially in a stakes. Travelin Man earned an outstanding 106 Beyer speed figure in a winning debut. The Todd Pletcher colt didn’t beat much but ran fast. He is the horse to beat.

The controversial Rick Dutrow trains Flashpoint. Other contenders include Crossbow, who won two in a row for Kiaran McLaughlin, and Manicero, who has won four straight for Leo Azpurua Jr.

The Fountain of Youth, as well as the Hutcheson, is a prep for the Florida Derby and, of course, the Kentucky Derby. To Honor and Serve is the favorite for trainer Bill Mott in the Fountain of Youth, but he’s worth trying to upset off a three-month layoff. I doubt if Mott will squeeze the lemon in his first start of the year and with the Derby as the ultimate goal.

Soldat freaked in winning a Gulfstream allowance by more than 10 lengths in a snappy 103 Beyer. Can Soldat duplicate that race over a fast dirt track in the Fountain of Youth on Saturday? We’ll see.

I like Gourmet Dinner to upset at 6-1 odds. He’ll have a new rider in Eclipse Award champion jockey Ramon Dominguez. Gourmet Dinner beat Mucho Macho Man last time, and that colt just won the Risen Star at the Fair Grounds. He’s tough and mature off six straight stakes starts.

When handicapping these three races, keep in mind the trainers’ intent. Some horses will need a race to prep for the next big stakes. Others have races under their belt and are ready to give their best Saturday.

■ SUPERBOOK SATURDAYS — The popular Las Vegas Hilton SuperBook Saturdays handicapping contest returns this weekend. The entry fee is $30, all of which is paid back to the players, along with $500 seed money.

Richard Eng’s horse racing column is published Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He can be reached at rich_eng@hotmail.com.

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