- Associated Press - Friday, February 21, 2014

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. (AP) - Last year, Orb’s win in the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park started him and trainer Shug McGaughey on the road to victories in the Florida Derby and the Kentucky Derby.

McGaughey will seek to win the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth again on Saturday with Top Billing, a colt that has raced just three times and is gaining a national following with a come-from-behind style similar to Orb.

Like Orb in 2013, Top Billing will make his stakes debut in the Fountain of Youth. The 1 1/16 mile stakes race for 3-year olds has 13 entrants and a $400,000 purse.

Top Billing has been so impressive in winning two of his three starts that he is the 7-2 second choice in the morning line.

The 3-1 favorite is Commissioner, who beat Top Billing by a neck in a 1 1/8 mile allowance race at Gulfstream on Jan. 3. Both horses have two wins and a second-place finish in three starts.

The Fountain of Youth also has General a Rod and Wildcat Red, each with a stakes win at one mile or shorter at Gulfstream this year.

But the buildup for the race has been mostly about the aptly named Top Billing, a son of Curlin who won the Eclipse Award as Horse of the Year in 2007 and 2008.

“Orb was more experienced at this time last year than Top Billing is now,” McGaughey said. “Top Billing developed slowly, and he wasn’t ready to start racing until late in the year. Now he is showing that he has talent and he has a great mind.”

Top Billing’s first race was Dec. 6. He won by 5 1/4 lengths at six furlongs on a sloppy track at Laurel Park in Maryland.

In his race against Commissioner, he was squeezed between that horse and third-place finisher Hy Kodiak Warrior in the stretch run. That led some fans to debate whether Commissioner or Top Billing had run a better race.

Commissioner won in 1:50.72, a solid early-season time for a 3-year-old.

Top Billing won a 1 1/16 mile allowance by 2 3/4 lengths at Gulfstream on Jan. 25. He was last after a half-mile in all of his races.

On Jan. 1, General a Rod beat Wildcat Red by a head after a lengthy stretch duel in the one-mile Gulfstream Park Derby. Wildcat Red, trained by Jose Garoffalo, followed that by winning the Grade 3 Hutcheson Stakes at seven furlongs on Feb. 1.

The Fountain of Youth will be first race longer than a mile and the first around two turns for General a Rod, trained by Mike Maker, and for Wildcat Red.

Top Billing and Commissioner are near the top of many racing analysts’ lists of contenders for the Kentucky Derby, to be run May 3 at Churchill downs.

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