Prep races are prep races. They have large purses and graded status but they are still prep races. Bigger targets are down the road and not every horse is primed for a big effort.

Saturday's Fountain of Youth (G2) was the perfect example. Last year's champion two-year-old male GOOD MAGIC was making his first start since winning the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) last November at Del Mar.

Good Magic lost his first two career starts so it's not like he is proven off the layoff, and trainer Chad Brown announced before the race that he would not come back for the Florida Derby (G1) four weeks later but would wait another week for either the Blue Grass (G2) or Wood Memorial (G2) at Aqueduct.

So Brown was telling us before the Fountain of Youth that this is a step along the road he wants to have extra time after it to train him harder before his next race. And with expectations lowered, Good Magic delivered with a third-place performance behind PROMISES FULFILLED and third-time starter STRIKE POWER.

But, putting Good Magic's third-place performance into context, it looks like it was exactly what Brown wanted.

To begin, Good Magic ran 34 feet farther than the winner as he raced off the rail every step. The Gulfstream Park main track was very deep and tiring as high winds kept the track dry and slow. The two horses that went to the front stayed there and Jose Ortiz kept Good Magic in contact and finished evenly. It was much better than it looked.

As Chad Brown has matured as a trainer, especially pointing for the classics, he has learned how to bring horses up to the race in peak form. Post 19 kept Practical Joke from running his best in the Kentucky Derby, but Brown had Cloud Computing ready for the Preakness (G1) two weeks later.

The last thing Brown wanted from Good Magic in the Fountain of Youth was a big effort. He didn't want it and didn't need it.

Last year, Good Magic improved in all three starts culminating with a BRIS speed rating of 102 when winning his Breeders' Cup race. This year, he starts off with a healthy 98 in his first start of the year, and in terms of developing a positive pattern to the first Saturday in May it was the perfect prep race.

Dale Romans said at the start of the year that he was loaded and he wasn't kidding. In the Fountain of Youth, he scratched FREE DROP BILLY in order to run him in Saturday's Gotham (G3) at Aqueduct. That still left him with two other starters: Promises Fulfilled and STORM RUNNER.

From post nine, Irad Ortiz Jr. gunned Promises Fulfilled to the front and was able to get to the rail around the clubhouse turn. Strike Power, impressive winner of his first two career starts, including the seven-furlong Swale (G3), looked to be the main speed but Luis Saez allowed Ortiz to clear him and then took up the chase.

Promises Fulfilled never stopped and won by 2 1/4 lengths over Strike Power with Good Magic third. Promises Fulfilled is now fully eligible for the Kentucky Derby with enough points and a graded stakes win going two turns. Strike Power did well once he did not make the lead and the role of the chaser can be very tiring. I hope they don't give up on him as a classic prospect since he showed he does not need the lead to run well.


Speaking of prep races, Chantilly on Tuesday hosted the Prix Darshaan on their Polytrack going 1 3/16 miles. Breeders' Cup Turf (G1) winner TALISMANIC looked sensational winning by 1 3/4 lengths over Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (G1) runner-up CLOTH OF STARS.

Both are owned by Godolphin, both are trained by legendary Andre Fabre and both will appear at Meydan on March 31. Talismanic will go on the dirt for the $10 million Dubai World Cup (G1) and Cloth of Stars will run in the $6 million Sheema Classic (G1). The Boys in Blue have had a terrific Dubai Racing Carnival so far and it looks like much of the money available on World Cup night will stay home.

(Wendy Wooley/EquiSport Photos)