Kentucky Derby Preview Series – The Grade 3 Holy Bull – By Eric Solomon

The first Derby Points race at Gulfstream has drawn a solid field of nine horses looking to improve their chances of making it into the starting gate in the Kentucky Derby. This is a strong group with several legitimate contenders making their first start of the season. There are two graded stakes winners, two graded stakes placed horses, and two other stakes winners in this nine horse field. 

 

Gulfstream Park Saturday 2/5/2022, Race 11: The Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes

17 Total Derby points (10/4/2/1)

 

 

1 – Galt (15-1 ML): He rode the rails to a maiden score in his local debut, beating a modest maiden special weight field at the end of December. He’s a full brother to champion two year old and three year old filly, Songbird, so the pedigree is there for sure. However, this is a tough spot to face winners for the first time, and while he’s definitely made growth in each of his three starts, this is a huge jump in class. He won’t be on my tickets this afternoon.

2 – Mo Donegal (5-2 ML, 28-1, Circa): The 2021 Remsen winner makes his eagerly awaited return to the races, kicking off his path that his connections hope leads him to the Kentucky Derby. Irad Ortiz has ridden him for his two career victories, and he is back aboard him this afternoon. I thought his Remsen win was a visually impressive performance that was backed up with a solid speed figure. The track was playing extremely slow that afternoon at Aqueduct, so the final time of 1:53:3 for the nine furlongs really wasn’t as slow as it looks on paper. He was buried along the rail after taking a bump at the break. He sat in a decent spot, while covered up all the way down the backstretch. Irad was hoping to get a seam for him to run through on the inside, but that hole never opened up. He floated him wide at the top of the stretch, accelerating past Zandon, who fought back gamely, but couldn’t get by him. I liked the effort from both horses in that race, as they were clearly the best runners that day. He’s had some trouble at the start in his first few races, breaking a step slow twice and then taking a bump shortly after a better break last time. I’m not sure he can afford to break slow today, so I’ll be watching him closely leading up to the race to see how he’s acting on track. His inside draw is advantageous at this distance though and he should be right there in the stretch. He’s a major player in this race.

3 – Eloquist (20-1 ML, 500-1, Circa): He’s campaigned by the same connections that sent out Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Champion, Vequist two years ago. He started off slow, but looked like a different horse when going two turns, breaking his maiden convincingly at Parx three starts ago. He was away slow in the Remsen, and relegated to the back of the pack with a fairly slow pace in front of him. His last start, which was his first over the local course, was not good when going a one turn mile. I can forgive his last two efforts, and I think he will improve at two turns. That being said, I don’t think he’s the same caliber of horse as some of the others in here. 

4 – Simplification (4-1 ML, 85-1, Circa): There’s definitely some serious pros and cons for this son of Not This Time, who was last seen winning the Mucho Macho Man Stakes here on January 1st. He is a stakes winner over the course, winning in gate to wire fashion, while setting solid fractions as the clear leader. He makes his first start at two turns, and while drawing a salty field, he finds himself as the lone true speed threat in this race, which is run into a shortened stretch with the 1 Mile and 1/16 configuration at Gulfstream. He did bounce two starts back after a big maiden score three starts ago when racing on the main track for the first time. Trainer Antonio Sano has been down this road before with Gunnevera back in 2017. He certainly looked like a horse that had more in the tank when winning last out, and I think 4-1 (ML) is fair market value. At that number, the positives outweigh the negatives for me. 

5 – Cajun’s Magic (8-1 ML, 250-1, Circa): He’s a modestly bred son of Cajun Breeze who has never finished worse than second in his five career starts, all as a two year old. He’s been away for a few months after throwing down with fellow Florida bred, Octane, in the Florida Sire Series In Reality Division at this distance back in September. He faces open company for the first time since his debut, and I’m not sure we’ll see such a strong effort from him while coming off the bench. His performance here may give some clues as to how strong the Florida Sire Series Stakes were or were not last year. 

6 – Tiz The Bomb (6-1, ML, 45-1, Circa): The runner up in Bredders’ Cup Juvenile Turf makes his seasonal debut when returning to the main track for the first time since his maiden victory. He broke his maiden in July going one mile on the main track in an off the turf race at Ellis Park, winning by over 14 lengths. He won his next two starts on the grass in stakes races at Kentucky Downs and Keeneland before rallying through traffic to get into second behind Modern Games last time out. Visually, he has been working well in the mornings on this course, gearing up for his three year old debut. It’s a positive sign to me that McPeek opted to enter him in this race and wait for the Risen Star in two weeks to run Smile Happy, winner of the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. He came from off the pace in his last race on the turf, but that was more of a function of getting shuffled to the back of the field. He has shown that he has some tactical speed which will likely come in handy in this spot. I do believe he can be effective on both surfaces, and 6-1 is an enticing price if we can get that. 

7 – Spin Wheel (20-1 ML, 150-1, Circa): He broke his maiden going 1 MIle and ⅛ on the second Stars of Tomorrow card at Churchill back in November. He had a bit of a strange trip in that race, going four wide in the first turn before settling toward the back of the pack. He looked like he was going in the wrong direction, before finding an opening along the rail and taking a Mine That Bird type of route through the stretch. He’s made only three starts and he’s bred to do well at two turns, however, seven of his eight rivals have competed in stakes company prior to this race, which makes this a very tricky spot for a maiden winner to try winners for the first time. I’m passing on him today.

8 – White Abarrio (6-1 ML, 200-1, Circa / 50-1 Caesar’s/WH): I thought the difference in odds between the two major future books was interesting for this three year old son of Race Day. Perhaps someone made a large future wager on him at the Caesar’s/William Hill book, explaining the drastic difference. If you are a believer in his Derby chances, make sure you’re shopping around.  He’s another one that is making his first start as a three year old after finishing third in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes in November. That race has already proven to be a useful race as Call Me Midnight, who finished off the board that day, came back to win the Lecomte last month at the Fair Grounds. Like some others here, he seems to have been working well over the local course and he has some tactical speed that may help him overcome a less than ideal post for this race. I don’t love the 6-1 morning line number though. If his odds float into double digit territory, I’d be more likely to consider him.

9 – Giant Game (7-2 ML, 35-1 Circa / 50-1, Caesar’s/WH): Like six others here, he is making his three year old debut this afternoon. He announced himself as a contender on the Derby Trail when finishing third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile this fall at Del Mar. He was a little eager in that race, getting away in midpack, running up on the heels of some of his rivals that were closely tracking the eventual winner, Corniche. He shifted out four wide on the turn and drew close to the winner, before tiring late, being passed by Pappacap, who saved more ground than him throughout their journey. He’s made improvement in each start, running very well in both two turn races. I think he has a bright future in front of him, however, this is a difficult spot for a variety of reasons. I’m not sure I see him getting the right kind of trip to win this race, but I do think he can be competitive at this level. 

The verdict: Top Picks: 4-6-2

Maybe I’m being foolish trying to beat a Todd Pletcher runner at this Championship Meeting at Gulfstream, seeing as how his win percentage is a ridiculous 38% at the moment. However, I do think Simplification is going to be very tough to beat in this race. He has the best early speed in a race where I think the majority of runners are going to be tracking him. I think he can carry his speed at this distance while catching some other horses that might not be at their very best in their first race off the layoff. With an eye to the Derby, I prefer the longer term prospects for Mo Donegal, Tiz The Bomb, and Giant Game, so I am expecting all three to run a solid race. 

I may take a different handicapping approach on race day if Simplification would be bet down to the favorite over Mo Donegal, or if the prices on Tiz The Bomb or Giant Game would float up off their morning line figures. However, on this day, Simplification is the one that is most appealing to me.

 

Each week, we’ll have an update on horses and races from the previous week that may produce starters for the 148th Kentucky Derby on May 7th, 2022. Current futures odds from Circa or Caesars-William Hill will be provided as they are available. Feel free to reach out on Twitter @EricSolomon718.

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