Historic Tips and Trends for Betting the 2023 Fountain of Youth Stakes

The Road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve makes an important stop at Gulfstream Park this Saturday for the $400,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes, a 1 1/16-mile race with a storied history has long ranked as one of the most important Triple Crown preps.

Thirteen horses have used the Fountain of Youth as a springboard to success on the first Saturday in May, including the legendary Spectacular Bid in 1979. Can the Fountain of Youth’s rich history help us identify the most likely winner of the 2023 edition? Well, it cerytainly can’t hurt.

A deep field of 10 3-year-olds has been entered, so handicappers can use all the help they can get in sorting through the contenders. To save you time, we’ve reviewed the recent history of the Fountain of Youth and compiled a list of tips and trends to aid your handicapping:

Any running style can prevail

Tactical speed is generally an asset in U.S. dirt racing, but that hasn’t been overly apparent in the Fountain of Youth. Since 2010 (when the race resumed a two-turn configuration after one year with a one-turn setup), the Fountain of Youth has seen six winners race on or near the lead, three more settle in midfield, and three rally from the back half of the pack.

In other words, don’t assume speed horses have an advantage in the Fountain of Youth. Even with an abbreviated run down the homestretch (1 1/16-mile races at Gulfstream end a sixteenth of a mile before the regular finish line), late runners have a decent chance to steal first prize.



Position after first 1/2-mile

½-mile, ¾-mile times

(course condition)



7th by 2.25 lengths (11 starters)

:48.27, 1:12.19 (fast)


Greatest Honour

8th by 6 lengths (10 starters)

:47.18, 1:11.51 (fast)


Ete Indien

1st by 0.5 lengths (10 starters)

:46.72, 1:11.30 (fast)


Code of Honor

5th by 8.5 lengths (11 starters)

:45.69, 1:10.42 (fast)


Promises Fulfilled

1st by 1 length (9 starters)

:48.39, 1:12.60 (fast)



7th by 9 lengths (10 starters)

:47.18, 1:12.37 (fast)



3rd by 1.5 lengths (6 starters)

:47.07, 1:11.02 (fast)



4th by 2 lengths (8 starters)

:47.87, 1:11.65 (fast)


Wildcat Red

2nd by a head (12 starters)

:46.25, 1:10.13 (fast)



6th by 8 lengths (9 starters)

:45.45, 1:08.85 (fast)


Union Rags

4th by 2 lengths (7 starters)

:48.11, 1:12.05 (fast)



1st by a head (8 starters)

:47.99, 1:12.43 (fast)



2nd by 1 length (10 starters)

:47.92, 1:12.41 (fast)

Don’t rely too heavily on the favorite

The Fountain of Youth annually attracts some of the most popular horses on the Derby trail, but these fan favorites don’t always land in the winner’s circle. Four betting choices (Simplification, Greatest Honour, Soldat, and Mohaymen) have prevailed in the last 13 editions of the Fountain of Youth, generating a respectable 31% win rate.

But that means the favorite has been defeated 69% of the time. Since 2010, Buddy’s Saint (9-5), Discreet Dancer (4-5), Violence (3-5), Top Billing (2-1), Upstart (9-10), Irish War Cry (11-10), Good Magic (7-10), Hidden Scroll (6-5), and Dennis’ Moment (13-10) have all fallen to defeat at short prices. Some of them were vulnerable while returning from layoffs. Others were overbet off impressive victories against easier company. One of them (Upstart) crossed the finish line first, only to be disqualified for interference. But regardless of the excuse, they all were beaten.

That isn’t to say you should look for huge longshots in the Fountain of Youth. Eleven of the last 13 winners started at 5.40-1 or less, with Promises Fulfilled (18.20-1) delivering the only truly significant upset. But you shouldn’t assume a heavy favorite is unbeatable; more often than not, the hype horses come up short.

Shippers rarely snatch first prize

Did you know 11 of the last 13 Fountain of Youth winners prepped with a run at Gulfstream in January or February? It’s tough to beat the locals in the Fountain of Youth. Familiarity with the track is a positive for Fountain of Youth contenders.

The two runners to defy this trend were Union Rags and Promises Fulfilled. Neither colt had run since November, but both had completed their pre-Fountain of Youth training in Florida, with Promises Fulfilled breezing at Gulfstream and Union Rags working out at nearby Palm Meadows Training Center.

Bet on Jose Ortiz

Jockey Jose Ortiz has enjoyed strong success in the Fountain of Youth. From five mounts, he’s recorded two wins (in 2021 and 2022), two seconds, and one third. One of his runner-up finishes came aboard Upstart, who crossed the finish line in first place before getting disqualified to second place.

To put it another way, Ortiz boasts a 40% win rate and a 100% in-the-money rate when riding in the Fountain of Youth. Any way you slice it, that’s a rock-solid record.

Favor proven graded stakes performers

It can be tough for maiden and allowance winners to step up in class for the Fountain of Youth. Since 2010, 11 out of 13 Fountain of Youth winners boasted previous graded stakes experience, and one of the colts to defy this trend — allowance winner Itsaknockout — only did so because graded stakes winner Upstart was disqualified from victory.

This leaves future Kentucky Derby winner Orb as the only horse without graded stakes experience to cross the finish line first in the Fountain of Youth since 2010, a testament to the quality of horse required to give up experience and still land in the Fountain of Youth winner’s circle.


The favorite to win the 2023 Fountain of Youth is reigning champion two-year-old male #4 Forte (7-5), winner of the Grade 1 FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Presented by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, Grade 1 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity, and Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes at age 2. But Forte hasn’t run since November, lacks experience at Gulfstream Park, and is bound to be favored in the betting, so there are several knocks against him from a historical perspective.

The best match for the historical profile of a Fountain of Youth winner is arguably #3 Shadow Dragon (12-1). While his odds might be a little higher than we’d prefer from a historical standpoint, Shadow Dragon has a lot to offer. He exits a rallying second-place finish in the Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes on Feb. 4 at Gulfstream, so he has graded stakes experience plus a recent race at Gulfstream under his belt. And Shadow Dragon is slated to be ridden by Jose Ortiz.

Conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, Shadow Dragon has only run three times and still has upside for improvement. History suggests Shadow Dragon is a fair bet to vie for victory in the Fountain of Youth.

Good luck with your handicapping, and enjoy the race!