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At long last, the champ is back. Good Magic, who saw his stock skyrocket by winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in dynamic fashion, will make his first start in four months when he takes on nine other sophomores with similar Kentucky Derby dreams in Saturday’s  $400,000, Grade 2  Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park. While the 2017 Juvenile Male Champion could well be on to bigger and better things, he has found no easy spot for his comeback.

Several other colts in the Fountain of Youth field come in with both big potential and more recent form. Adding to the intrigue of the Fountain of Youth is all the speed lining up to spring from the starting gate on Saturday, led by the undefeated Strike Power. While a sizzling early pace should not hurt Good Magic, it might help others in the race even more. The late runner that most interests me is Marconi.

We’ve known about the big gray colt from the barn of Todd Pletcher for some time. The son of the nation’s leading sire Tapit, was produced by the broodmare, Ponche de Leona, which makes him a half-brother to the popular Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, Mucho Macho Man. With that type of pedigree, combined with his sizable good looks, he was a hot commodity at the Keeneland September Sale of 2016, eventually being purchased for a cool $2 million. In three starts to date, Marconi has done little wrong. Well, little wrong other than breaking from the gate well.

Slow starts aside, in each of his three starts, he has finished with great late energy. In his most recent start, the Grade 3 Withers on February 3, Marconi demonstrated that he belongs with good competition, finishing a good third behind a pair of classy colts, Avery Island and Firenze Fire. To win the Fountain of Youth, he surely will need to run his best race yet, but his steady improvement in his three starts, coupled with giving the impression of a very talented colt still very much learning, has me hopeful that he can take another move forward.

And then you have the pace. In each of his first three runs, Marconi was in no way aided by swift early to run at. That will most certainly change on Saturday. You might think the 1 1/16-mile distance to be a bit short for what will ultimately be his best distance, but a blistering early pace battle can make this the perfect distance for a horse who wants to do his best running late. With Strike Power, Machismo, and Promises Fulfilled likely to ensure lively early splits, Marconi will, for the first time in his career, have a real pace in which to uncork his late run.

Throw in getting Javier Castellano back in the saddle for the Fountain of Youth, and you have all the ingredients for a potential upset at Gulfstream Park. When last together, the pair rolled home a big winner in an Aqueduct maiden race back in December.

While Good Magic looms the most likely winner in this important Kentucky Derby prep, his odds will be less than attractive. With the Juvenile hero at odds-on, Marconi, tabbed as the 8-1 fourth choice on the morning line, should be very playable. Can the big gray with a penchant for breaking tardily come storming down the lane to win the Fountain of Youth? At the expected odds, I think it is worth a bet to find out.

Marconi photo courtesy of NYRA