HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Dennis’ Moment’s four-race career has been marked by equal measures of bountiful talent and dreadful luck.
When Albaugh Family Stables LLC’s 3-year-old son of Tiznow has had the opportunity to give it his all, he has been nothing short of brilliant. A pair of eye-catching back-to-back victories, unfortunately, have been sandwiched in between two frightful starts.
Trainer Dale Romans is hoping Dennis’ Moment will have the chance to strut his stuff in Saturday’s $400,000 Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park and establish himself as a leading prospect for the $1 million Curlin Florida Derby (G1) March 28, as well as the 2020 Triple Crown. First-race post time for the 14-race card is set for 11:30 a.m.
The Fountain of Youth will headline a program with 10 stakes, nine graded, worth $1.95 million Saturday, when the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Mile (G2), the $200,000 Davona Dale (G2) and the $200,000 Mac Diarmida (G2) will also be featured.
On the strength of the two dominating victories on his resume, Dennis’ Moment has been installed as the 2-1 morning-line favorite among 12 3-year-olds entered Wednesday in the 1 1/16-mile Fountain of Youth.
“I’m feeling a lot of pressure. I’m not usually in this situation where I feel a pressure. I usually like being the underdog because there’s not much pressure,” said Romans, whose trainee drew Post No. 5. “With this horse, there’s so much hype with him – well deserved, he’s very talented. I put the pressure on myself because of what I think of him. I think he’s ready to roll.”
Dennis’ Moment hasn’t run since finishing off the board in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Santa Anita Nov. 1, when he lost all chance while stumbling badly and going to his knees following the start.
The Kentucky-bred colt, who was purchased for $400,000 at the 2018 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Select Yearling Sale, was the recipient of bad luck in his debut at Churchill Downs in June when he lost his rider after clipping heels shortly after the start. He broke his maiden in spectacular fashion in his second career start July 27 at Ellis Park, scoring a 19 ¼-length triumph after running seven furlongs in 1:21.95. The Kentucky-bred colt came right back to win the Sept. 14 Iroquois (G3) at Churchill Downs by 1 ¾ lengths in his first start around two turns.
Romans hasn’t been shy about revealing his high expectation for Dennis’ Moment.
“All horses are different. Kitten’s Joy has always been my gold standard. He’s the best horse I ever had. This horse is good, right there with him,” Romans said. “There have been a lot of good ones. Not this Time was a good 2-year-old. I think this horse is right with him. He’s done everything right.”
Dennis’ Moment hasn’t had the chance to fully compete in the race since September, which has given him five and a half months to grow up.
“He’s been so cool from Day 1. I almost don’t want him to change. He’s been so perfect about everything he does,” Romans said. “He’s such a neat horse to be around.”
Flavien Prat is scheduled to ride Dennis’ Moment for the first time Saturday.
The Fountain of Youth offers 50 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby (G1), virtually guaranteeing the winner a spot in the 20-horse field for the first leg of the Triple Crown.
Shooting Star Thoroughbreds’ Chance It, rated second at 7-2 after drawing Post No. 12, will enter the Fountain of Youth, having already won his 3-year-old debut. The Florida-bred colt, who hasn’t been worse than second in six career starts, fought back in deep stretch to capture the $100,000 Mucho Macho Man at Gulfstream Jan. 4.
“That showed he had a lot of guts that day. I thought he was beat 100 percent, especially coming off the layoff. I didn’t expect him to find a little bit more because I knew he was coming off four months,” trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. said. “We could only have him so fit. A race does so much more than training. He found a way. He only got in front at the wire, and he still galloped out big.”
The Mucho Macho Man, which was contested at a mile around one turn, was Chance It’s first race since capturing the $400,000 In Reality, the 1 1/16-mile final of the 2019 Florida Sire Stakes series, by 7 ¼ lengths.
“He always looked like he’d stretch out. I know it was against lesser competition than he’ll face Saturday, but to see him do it that day, I thought it was his most visually impressive race,” Joseph said. “It gives us a lot of confidence that he’ll stay the mile and a sixteenth, strongly.”
Tyler Gaffalione, who rode Chance in both the In Reality and Mucho Macho Man, has the return mount Saturday.
Ete Indien enters the Fountain of Youth off a solid second-place finish behind Grade 1 winner Tiz the Law in the $250,000 Holy Bull (G3) at Gulfstream Feb. 1. The gelded son of Summer Front set a pressure pace into the stretch before succumbing to Tiz the Law but continuing on gamely to finish 11 ½ lengths clear of third-place finisher Toledo.
“Tiz the Law was the best horse that day. We ran a big race and left the rest of the field far behind,” trainer Patrick Biancone said. “If he can’t do better than that, I don’t think he has a chance on Saturday, but I think he has improved enough.”
Ete Indien, who his owned by Biancone Racing LLC, Linda Shanahan, Sanford Bacon, Breeze With Me Stable Inc., Horse France America and D P Racing LLC, debuted in September with a late-running victory in a five-furlong turf race at Gulfstream. After finishing off the board in the Bourbon (G3) at Keeneland, he made an auspicious dirt debut in a one-turn mile optional claiming allowance Dec. 20, producing a front-running 2 ½-length victory over heavily favored Toledo on the main track.
“We are in America. Dirt is the tradition this time of year. There are no good turf races anyway until July. We tried him [on dirt] and he won brilliantly but was a bit green. He was much better the second time,” Biancone said. “He’s a big baby. He’s a very talented big horse who needs to learn and improve.”
Jockey Florent Geroux will fill in for injured Luca Panici Saturday.
Shotski will enter the Fountain of Youth with proven Grade 2 success around two turns, having captured the Remsen (G2) at Aqueduct Dec. 7. The son of Blame, who is owned by Gary Barber, Wachtel Stable, Pantofel Stable and Howling Pigeon Farms LLC, led throughout the 1 1/8-mile Remsen.
In his Feb. 13 return to action at Aqueduct, Shotski set a pressure pace before faltering in the stretch to finish second in the Withers (G3) at Aqueduct, 3 ¼ lengths behind Max Player.
“It’ll be nice to get him away from the Aqueduct course – it’s pretty deep – and see if he can compete with the big boys on a faster surface, which I think he will,” trainer Jeremiah O’Dwyer said.
Although Shotski has set the pace in his two most recent starts, O’Dwyer doesn’t envision the Kentucky-bred colt to be the pacesetter Saturday.
“I’d like to see him sit third or fourth. I believe there will be a lot more speed in the race. He can do it all. We’ve breezed him in behind horses to prepare for that,” O’Dwyer said. “I’d like to see him get a tow into the race and sit third or fourth behind the speed in the ideal world.”
Hall of Famer John Velazquez will ride Shotski for the first time Saturday, subbing for Luis Saez, who is scheduled to ride 2019 Florida Derby winner Maximum Security in Saturday’s Saudi Cup.
Screen Door Stables LLC’s As Seen On Tv, who finished a head behind Chance It after holding the lead late in the Mucho Macho Man, is set for a return in the Fountain of Youth. The Kelly Breen-trained son of Lookin At Lucky, who has finished no worse than second in four starts, had previously captured the 6 ½-furlong Juvenile Sprint for Florida- breds at Gulfstream Park West.
Paco Lopez has the return mount Saturday.
Stonehedge Farm LLC’s Liam’s Lucky Charm will try to rebound from a 10th-place finish in the Feb. 15 Risen Star (G2) at Fair Grounds Saturday. The Ralph Nicks-trained son of Khozan, who broke through the gate prior to the start of the Risen Star, had previously won the Pasco by 5 ½ lengths in the seven-furlong Pasco at Tampa Bay Downs.
Liam’s Lucky Charm defeated Chance It in the $200,000 Florida Sire Stakes Affirmed at seven furlongs before finishing a well-beaten third behind Chance It in the 1 1/16-mile FSS In Reality.
Edgard Zayas has the call aboard the homebred Liam’s Lucky Charm.
Mathis Stable LLC’s Candy Tycoon, who broke through with a maiden victory on the undercard of the Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) Jan. 25, is slated to make a return to action in the Fountain of Youth. Trained by Todd Pletcher, the son of Twirling Candy scored by four lengths at the 1 1/16-mile distance to graduate in his fifth career start.
Paul Pompa Jr.’s Country Grammer is also slated to make the leap from maiden company to Grade 2 Company in the Fountain of Youth. The Chad Brown-trained son of Tonalist is coming off a 3 ¼-length victory at 1 1/8 miles at Aqueduct Nov. 11.
Gelfenstein Farm’s Masterday, a debut winner who recently finished second behind Ny Traffic in an optional claiming allowance, has been entered in the Fountain of Youth. Trainer Gilberto Zerpa gave the call to Cristian Torres.
Calumet Farm’s Gear Jockey, who finished third on turf in both the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) and Bourbon; and Ron Paolucci Racing LLC and Ashley Quartarolo’s The Falcon, who has been in the money in two career starts; are both scheduled for seek to break their respective maidens in the Fountain of Youth.
Julien Leparoux has the mount on Rusty Arnold-trained Gear Jockey, while Marcos Meneses is slated to ride Bob Hess Jr.-trained The Falcon.
Owner/trainer Danny Daniel Hurtak’s Makabim, unplaced in a starter stakes last time out, rounds out the field. Junior Alvarado has the call.