Fountain of Youth Challengers Look to Step Up

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12:40 pm EST

Hennig, Romans Assess Chances

Strike Power made a big splash in his career debut at Gulfstream Park on Dec. 23, and even trainer Mark Hennig didn’t know what the 3-year-old son of Speightstown would do for an encore.

Courtlandt Farms’ brilliant colt came back from his eight-length romp in his 5 1/2-furlong debut to win the seven-furlong Swale Stakes debut by 2 3/4 lengths.Although victorious, his performance arguably somewhat lacked the brilliance of his debut.

“He started sprinting five-and-a-half, and then moving up to grade III going seven-eighths. He had already run a 102 Beyer in his first start. Our biggest concern was not coming back too soon off of that,” Hennig said. “You could almost anticipate the horse would regress off of that. That’s pretty normal. The fact that he regressed and pretty much galloped in the Swale was fine with us. We’re not as enamored with the figures as we are with the purse money.”

Undefeated at sprint distances, Strike Power now faces the challenge of two turns in the Fountain of Youth.

“It’s a concern until they do it. I’ve let him settle behind a horse the last couple times he worked because that could arise at some point for him,” Hennig said. “He’s a great-minded horse. I never would have expected off of all of his training for his first race that he would be that quick. He seemed like he’s a nice horse, but he’s a different horse when he gets in the game and being competitive. Again, until they do it, you’ve got to have a little doubt in mind.

Luis Saez has the return mount aboard Strike Power’s clash against Eclipse Award champion Good Magic and eight other 3-year-olds in the Fountain of Youth.

Romans' Other Two

After turning in a strong second-place finish behind Audible in the Holy Bull Stakes, Free Drop Billy will give trainer Dale Romans a high-profile representation in Saturday’s race.

However, Romans also has two stablemates entered. Promises Fulfilled makes his 2018 debut, and Storm Runner comes in off an optional claiming allowance win over the closing Mississippi at the track on Feb. 4.

Promises Fulfilled won his first two starts last year before finishing third in the Nov. 25 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs after setting the pace into the stretch.

“It was really a much better race than it might look,” Romans said. “He was getting out every step of the way. He was fighting the jockey and lost a lot of energy doing that, but he kept on fighting to get third. Everybody who was up there with him on the front end all backed up."

“He’s been training really well. He’s been kind off flying under the radar, but he’s a fast horse that might keep on going.”

Storm Runner, a $5,000 yearling purchase at the 2016 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky fall sale, is slated to make his stakes debut in the Fountain of Youth.

“He’s the one who has made the big turn from two to three,” Romans said. “He’s such an inexpensive yearling, he’s been under the radar behind the big horses, but he’s as good as anybody.”

Irad Ortiz Jr. will ride Promises Fulfilled, while Storm Runner will be ridden by Joel Rosario.

Edited Gulfstream Park release