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Violence strong, not flashy

Will No. 4 ranked Violence stay perfect in Saturday's Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park? NYRA/Adam Coglianese

Violence has a perfect record, and he just might be the perfect racehorse, a smooth blend of speed and stamina, an ideal partnership of physical ability and mental tractability. In other words, he's boring. Perfection always is, and he's likely to remain perfect after Saturday's Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park, a perfect contender for the Triple Crown.

Violence doesn't break stopwatches. Unlike some Triple Crown contenders you could probably name, he hasn't run away from his rivals as if they're deep, dark secrets in an embarrassing past. All of his races have been fairly close, as if he already understands and accepts the winning objective and knows there's no lap money, no bonus for an audacious or humiliating margin of victory. His trainer, Todd Pletcher, even suggested that when Violence assumed the lead in the CashCall Futurity last December, the colt switched his engine onto cruise control.

"I felt like there was more to give," Pletcher said, explaining that a trainer just has to "love everything about" the colt. Violence has won, after all, at three different racetracks, at three different distances, and has traveled from one side of the country to the other without turning a stressful hair in annoyance or frustration. Violence, Pletcher pointed out, is versatile, "very professional and has a great mind."

In other words, he's perfectly boring. Everything about him is boring, even his trip in the CashCall Futurity. He raced within two lengths of a lively, contentious pace (46.07 seconds for the opening half-mile), cruising easily and comfortably just behind a disputatious and unsuspecting quartet; he advanced inside around the second turn, angled out at the top of the Hollywood Park stretch and then, ho-hum, won by a little more than a length, cruise control turned to risible.

It was a perfect trip, neither a straw in his path nor a threatening rival at his throat. Of course, he had the talent to take advantage of the perfect trip, the ability to race near a hot pace without getting burned and then the strength to finish with determination, as very few youngsters could have.

Perfection can be so boring, can't it? Violence is so perfectly suited to his purpose that he can make victories look boring and probably so talented that on Saturday he'll return the Fountain of Youth Stakes to prominence among Triple Crown preps. Over the last eight years, the Fountain of Youth has produced 17 starters in the Kentucky Derby, but only one of them ran with any success at Churchill Downs, Ice Box, who finished second in 2010.

Saturday's renewal has attracted a field of 11, compared to seven just a year ago. The new point system for determining the Derby field, Pletcher speculated, has probably contributed to increased entries both at Gulfstream and at Fair Grounds, where 14 are expected for the Risen Star Stakes. Both races are worth 85 points (50-20-10-5). And the larger fields should mean a more contentious pace.

Violence is so perfectly suited to his purpose that he can make victories look boring and probably so talented that on Saturday he'll return the Fountain of Youth Stakes to prominence among Triple Crown preps.


But whatever the pace, Violence will adapt. Adaptability and versatility are among his many virtues. As his jockey, Javier Castellano, said, the handsome, darkly hued colt doesn't do anything wrong. Violence probably has sufficient natural speed to be the early leader Saturday, but an early lead isn't the objective, and so he'll probably be content to stalk Majestic Hussar. Falling Sky, the Sam F. Davis winner, will be prominent early. Speak Logistics, who had a troubled trip at Tampa Bay, having to check at the top of the stretch, could improve; Cerro and Orb are intriguing. But chances are good that this will be another boring and unspectacular victory for Violence.

His stablemate Revolutionary is more exciting. Revolutionary's still trying decide between a career as a racehorse and a future as an escape artist. Verrazano is more exciting, too. Having taken the theory of unsupportable transit to a frightening extreme, he could soon take flight. And then there's Normandy Invasion, the favorite in Saturday's Risen Star Stakes in New Orleans. He's a knockout artist who has a punch so powerful he could flatten the Twin Spires. Or he could swing and miss entirely, as knockout artists frequently do.

Recent years have seen some sensational young horses aimed at the Triple Crown. Uncle Mo, for example, was probably as talented and exciting as any 2-year-old since Easy Goer. But as a 3-year-old, Uncle Mo became ill and never quite became the superstar he had suggested was possible. Union Rags was so physically intimidating at 2 that he seemed a man among boys. Did he outgrow his biomechanical effectiveness? He won last year's Fountain of Youth and, later, the Belmont, but he never really stepped forward and finished seventh in the Derby.

Compared to such horses, Violence is boring. Blessedly and perfectly boring.