A 78-year-old Florida man stumbled into the Fountain of Youth
last Saturday afternoon, and before the National Enquirer or
Hard Copy plays fast and loose with the facts, you should know
that Tom Heard Jr. did undergo an amazing transformation. A
thoroughbred owner and trainer for more than 50 years, Heard
turned into a kid again after his overlooked and underrated
Built for Pleasure shocked the crowd at Gulfstream Park near
Miami by winning the year's first important Kentucky Derby prep
race, the $200,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes, at the whopping
odds of 143-1.
Heard, whose main claim to fame is having had horses win races
in every decade since the 1930s, was asked whether he hoped to
run his colt in the Derby. "Well, of course!" he said. "But I've
been in this business long enough to know that you shouldn't
expect something until it happens."
Indeed, Built for Pleasure, who had never before won in stakes
company, still has much to prove before Heard will book him on a
flight to Louisville for the 122nd Derby on May 4 at Churchill
Downs. Yet because the nine-horse field for the Fountain of
Youth Stakes included Unbridled's Song--the winter-book Derby
favorite by virtue of his victory in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile
last October--and several other highly regarded Derby prospects,
Built for Pleasure deserves considerably more respect than he
received from the skeptical bettors at Gulfstream.
On Saturday the colt departed from his usual racing style.
Instead of running on or near the lead, as he had in most of his
nine previous races, Built for Pleasure dropped back into the
pack and bided his time until the second turn in the 1 1/16-mile
race. Then, under jockey Gary Boulanger's strong urging, the bay
son of Homebuilder, out of the undistinguished mare
Littlebitapleasure, defied the genetics experts--"He really
doesn't have that much pedigree," Heard admits--and galloped from
off the pace to collar Unbridled's Song in the final 70 yards.
Four Fountain of Youth winners have gone on to take the
Derby--including last year's winner, Thunder Gulch--so Built for
Pleasure can't be taken lightly. Then again, Unbridled's Song,
Victory Speech, Appealing Skier and Editor's Note all finished
within two lengths of the winner, and their handlers have little
reason to feel discouraged.
Of Saturday's also-rans, the most closely watched was
Unbridled's Song. Last year the talented colt had so many minor
maladies that he made only two starts before his win in the
Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Before that victory owner Ernie
Paragallo flatly predicted that his thoroughbred would win the
1996 Triple Crown. So far this year, however, Unbridled's Song
is 0 for 2, having been beaten by half a length by Appealing
Skier on Feb. 4 in the Hutcheson. Paragallo will be eating crow
unless his colt ends a longstanding jinx: No winner of the
Breeders' Cup Juvenile, which had its first running in 1984, has
won the Derby, never mind the Triple Crown.
"Considering it was his first race around two turns, I wasn't
discouraged," said Unbridled's Song's trainer, Jim Ryerson, on
Saturday after seeing his colt again finish second. "He's not an
easy horse to handle, and he got into a little trouble going
into the first turn, but he still settled enough to be right
there at the end. If he improves off this, he's still the one to
Equally undaunted was D. Wayne Lukas, who saddled up Victory
Speech and Editor's Note. "There's still a lot of racing to go,"
said Lukas, who won last year's Derby on the way to becoming the
first trainer to win the Triple Crown with different horses
(Thunder Gulch in the Derby and the Belmont, Timber Country in
As usual, Lukas will be the mint sprig that stirs the julep at
Churchill Downs. Besides Victory Speech and Editor's Note, his
deep and talented stable includes three other prospects:
--Honour and Glory, the probable favorite in this Saturday's San
Rafael at Santa Anita.
--Hennessy, who was beaten by only a neck by Unbridled's Song in
last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile.
--Prince of Thieves, who has already won around two turns in
So right now is there such a thing as a Derby favorite? Well ...
maybe. Cobra King, who won the 1 1/16-mile Holy Bull Stakes at
Gulfstream on Jan. 20, could be the real winner of the Fountain
of Youth. He stayed in the barn on Saturday because Mike Puype,
his 29-year-old trainer, believes the colt benefits from extra
time off between starts. In fact the March 16 Florida Derby, in
which he'll most likely be favored over Unbridled's Song and
Built for Pleasure, will be his last prep for the Kentucky Derby.
Owned by Gary Bisantz, who made a fortune through Cobra golf
equipment, and his wife, Betty, Cobra King was one of the best
2-year-olds in California last year. "Since he's already had a
distance race, we're a little ahead of everybody," said Puype.
"I feel quite confident. Right now he's by all means the horse
to beat in the Kentucky Derby."
That wise old man Heard might counsel Puype to cool it. After
all, it's a difficult task to get a horse to the Derby, much
less win it. But now that Heard has stumbled into the Fountain
of Youth with a horse that he bought for $40,000 as a
2-year-old, he surely understands that you can never be too
young or too old to be seduced by the siren call of the Kentucky
COLOR PHOTO: BILL FRAKES Built for Pleasure (far left) came out of nowhere to beat favored Unbridled's Song (right front). [Built for Pleasure, Unbridled's Song, and other horses racing in Fountain of Youth Stakes]