HALLENDALE BEACH, Fla., Feb. 14 (UPI) -- Offlee Wild heads the field for the $200,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes Saturday at Gulfstream Park, the first Grade I race of the year open to all 3-year-olds.
65-year-old T.V. Smith has been training horses for four decades, but has yet to have a Kentucky Derby starter. Smith flirted with a Kentucky Derby run in 1999 with Grits'n Hard Toast, who won the Holy Bull but stumbled in other prep races.
Offlee Wild is a legitimate candidate to make the trip to Louisville for the May 3 Kentucky Derby, the first of the three Triple Crown races. The road continues Saturday with the 1 1/16-mile Fountain of Youth, which should provide several candidates for the $1 million Florida Derby on March 15.
Horses that finish first, second or third automatically are nominated for the Florida Derby.
After finishing fourth in his debut race at Keeneland, Offlee Wild has won twice in his last three starts, including an impressive triumph as a 27-1 long shot in the Holy Bull Stakes on Jan. 18. It was the first time that Offlee Wild raced around two turns.
"Fact is, I think he will go a lot farther than he went in the Holy Bull," Smith said. "He's the best horse I've ever trained."
Offlee Wild, a Seattle Slew mare that was purchased for $325,000 by Azalea Stables, was clocked going six furlongs in a sizzling 1:11.40 in a workout Wednesday.
The horse drew the far outside No. 9 post and is 6-1 in the morning line with Mark Guidry aboard. The field will include Whywhywhy, who finished 10th as the 5-2 favorite in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Trainer Patrick Biancone will give the mount to Edgar Prado.
Whywhywhy is the morning-line favorite at 5-2, and will break from the No. 5 post.
Trainer Ken McPeek, who saddled Sarava, the 2002 Belmont Stakes winner, will try his hand Saturday with Ten Cents a Shine with Jerry Bailey aboard. Ten Cents a Shine is 4-1 and has the No. 2 post.
In his 2003 debut at Gulfstream on Jan. 31, Ten Cents a Shine rallied from eighth place to finish in a dead heat with the undefeated Senor Swinger in a 1 1/16-mile allowance test. The horse won his maiden start at Churchill Downs and was second in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at that track.
The second choice is Trust N Luck, who is 3-1 from the No. 6 post. The horse had a two first and two second-place finishes last season.
Saturday's Gulfstream card also includes the Grade II Hutcheson Stakes, another prep for the Florida Derby. Lion Tamer (8-5) is the favorite in the six-horse field that will go seven furlongs.
The field for the Kentucky Derby opened up considerably last week when Vindication, the undefeated winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, dropped out of the Triple Crown series with a foot injury.